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The Court of Appeal today dismissed an appeal against the minimum jail term imposed on Samuel Moses Samson (34) last year for murdering Azalia Wilson at the Bavarian Motel in 2019.
On June 3 last year, following a jury trial in the High Court at Invercargill, Samson was sentenced to life imprisonment with a 17-year minimum non-parole jail period.
Ms Wilson, who was 21 years old and the mother of Samson’s baby daughter, died of blunt force injuries to the head, neck, abdomen and face on November 17 in 2019.
At a hearing earlier this month, Samson’s lawyer Nicolette Levy, QC, told Justices Gilbert, Mander and Fitzgerald that the minimum jail time was excessive, given his mental health issues and disadvantaged upbringing.
She sought to admit as evidence a consultant psychiatrist’s report dealing with those issues, and asked for the minimum jail time to be reduced to 13 and a-half years.
Ms Levy said that, at the time of his sentencing, his then-counsel Judith Ablett-Kerr, QC, was restrained by his instructions not to put the psychiatrist's report before sentencing judge Justice Gerald Nation as it contained partial admissions to the crime.
The report found Samson suffered from complex post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), a more serious disorder than PTSD, and suffered traumatic brain injuries in childhood.
It led to a propensity for violence in domestic relationships and addiction to drugs and alcohol, Ms Levy said.
It was unjust that Samson would have to wait 17 years before he was entitled to return to the community, regardless of the progress he might make.
In today's decision, Justices Gilbert, Mander and Fitzgerald said they would not normally admit evidence on appeal that had been deliberately withheld from the sentencing judge for strategic reasons.
However, they had decided to grant the application ‘‘with some reluctance’’ in the overall interests of justice.
They accepted Samson’s ‘‘truly dreadful upbringing’’ helped explain his offending, and his deeply ingrained impulse and anger control deficits.
However, there was no evidence of significant intellectual impairment , and the offending was premeditated.
He had gone to the hotel intending to brutally murder Ms Wilson, and his subsequent actions were ‘‘calculated and extremely callous’’.
‘‘None of this is adequately explained by a lack of impulse control.’’
Any discount that might otherwise have been justified would have to be reduced to take account of Samson’s long history of serious and escalating domestic violence.
Therefore, the minimum term of imprisonment was appropriate and the judges dismissed the appeal against the sentence.
- By Guy Williams
PIJF court reporter