Weatherston appeal dismissed

The Elliott family is relieved that Clayton Weatherston has had his appeal against conviction for killing Sophie Elliot dismissed by the Court of Appeal today.

"I think anyone who has read our recently released book Sophie's Legacy will realise the Appeal Court Judges came to the right conclusion. The family are relieved the judicial side of our loss is finally over," Sophie's Lesley Elliott said in a statement.

She asked that the family's privacy be respected today "so we can reflect on what has been a harrowing ordeal over the past three and a half years."

In 2009, Weatherston was found guilty of murdering Miss Elliott, 22, in her Dunedin home on January 9 2008.

He had stabbed her 216 times.

The former economics tutor at Otago University, now 35, was sentenced in the High Court at Christchurch to life imprisonment, with a minimum non-parole period of 18 years.

During the appeal, defence lawyer Robert Lithgow, QC, argued seven points, among which were Weatherston did not receive a fair trial as a result of statements made in the media, and inadmissible evidence was presented at his trial.

Mr Lithgow told the Court of Appeal that public comment made by Law Commission deputy president Warren Young attacking the provocation defence undermined Weatherston's case was prejudicial, as he was arguing the same defence.

He also cited an "unbalanced" article by the Listener magazine on the defence of provocation, which was published in the days before the jury went out.

Mr Lithgow also challenged the use of photos of Miss Elliot's wounds as exhibits in the trial.

In a decision released today by Justice Robert Chambers, the Court of Appeal dismissed all grounds of appeal.

The court found the question of prejudice was resolved by Justice Judith Potter who directed the jury to ignore any media commentary on aspects of the case.

"In reaching that conclusion the court has found that there was no evidence of any kind that any juror saw the media stories and that even if they had no reasonable juror would have been improperly swayed by them," Justice Chambers said.

"Furthermore, the trial judge repeatedly warned the jury to ignore media coverage related to the trial and her summing-up gave jurors no room to meditate upon or express a view on the defence of provocation."

The appeal judges agreed photographs of Miss Elliott's wounds should have been admissible.

"The court has recorded in a postscript its admiration for the careful and thoughtful way in which Justice Potter conducted the trial and has acknowledged the excellent representation Dr Weatherston received at trial from Judith Ablett-Kerr QC and Greg King," Justice Chambers said.

He also said there was no misconduct by the prosecution.

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