Archive for March, 2009
I met him in the street as I arrived for a visit to my own daughter. He was eighty years old and had nothing but a used bus ticket and four dollars in change in his pocket. And he became my friend.
I arrived in Adelaide to see my new granddaughter and daughter and partner and found the old man wandering alone in the bus terminal, confused. He had the look of a lost dog. He almost whined and lay on his back with his legs in the air, exhorting me to rub his belly.
I had time to spare and a relatively-decent knowledge of the city, so I asked him if I could help. He shoved a piece of paper into my hand.
“This is the address but I can’t work out where it is. How can I get there? Can you help me find this? It’s my son”
The old man hadn’t spoken to his son in twelve years. Reminded me of my own relationship with my father, since deceased, and mother still going strong at 92 but ensconced in a rest home. On that piece of paper was the return address in the corner of an envelope of a card what I took to be his grandson had mailed to him. The date stamp looked to be about ten years old and you could see that it had been folded, unfolded and then refolded many. Many times.
Other than the address – which he later told me he had clutched in his hand the entire trip from Sydney to Adelaide , the man had arrived with nothing but a used bus ticket and four dollars in change in his pocket.
We hopped into a taxi and I supposed that this was some guilt pay back thing for me but I was going in the general direction so –
We arrived at a modest Adelaide house, blinds down, lawn dying in the intense heat like most Adelaide houses in mid summer.
I waited in the taxi as the old man walked up the porch steps. It wasn’t his son that answered the doorbell, but instead a boy in his late teens. Probably the grandson. I had my fingers crossed.
They exchanged a few words on the porch – I couldn’t make out the conversation – and then the young man took the old man into his arms. They embraced for over a minute before the boy took his grandfather’s hand and led him into the house. Just before closing the door, they both paused and looked back at me: a look that told me that everything was going to be okay.
I turned. A passer by, who had obviously been eavesdropping on the old man and my conversation smiled at me. Just then the front door burst open and the old man tumbled backwards down the steps, desperately trying to clutch onto the banister. A large, oafish man, dressed in a grubby white singlet that I had come to know as a wife beaters singlet, stood at the top of the stairs and yelled down at the prone figure.
“And don’t ever try to come back again, you desperate old bastard.”
With that he stormed back into the house, the slammed door the only testament to what I had witnessed.
‘Well my days as an ugly model are coming to an end. I had been working as a security guard when I was asked to deliver a parcel to the offices of The Ugly Model Agency. Usually I don’t do that sort of work but it was some high finance stuff and they wanted the extra security. The guy at the front desk didn’t show much interest at first then he kind of squinted at me and asked me to take off my motorcycle helmet. I didn’t want to because to be perfectly honest with you I am not the greatest looker in the world but he was persistent so I undid the chinstrap and slipped it off. I will try to describe how I look. I have a long, angular face and a receding hairline. My dumb parents never caught on to the idea of orthodontics and my teeth are a mess. I have two very prominent front teeth which kind of stick out of my mouth, even when it is closed. My eyes bulge and when I get angry they really stick out. My best feature is my neck, which is long, and graceful with a prominent adams apple, which I have been told, is very sexy on a man. My body is kind of emaciated on account of I don’t eat all that well. I once worked out but it didn’t do much for me except get some queer looks at the gym. And I have big feet and hands. You know what that means. Anyway, this guy takes a look at me and asks me if I want to be a model. I asked him what he meant and if he was taking the mickey out of me but he insisted there was a market for someone with my looks. I grinned and said I was game as long as I didn’t have to take off my clothes. He assured me that I wouldn’t which turned out to be so not true. Before I knew it, I was out of security and into quirky ads that called for what the trade called ‘geek boys’. Basically the agency was for ugly people who were used to make an ad stand out. The nude shot was through a window and my biggest feature was obscured by the hand of the presenter but I suppose that was when all this started.
I had never been one for the girls but there was this one person who worked at the agency who I immediately felt drawn to. Nina was also an ugly model though I thought she was beautiful. Perhaps a little on the heavy side but she had a beautiful face and her voice just turned me to melted chocolate. She had this way of lifting the end of a sentence so it came out like a beautiful little request. She was also super confident and she didn’t pay attention to the sniggering comments that some of the agency folk made about us. She said that we all had an inner beauty and that was what counted.
I don’t remember much of how this latest thing started. I just kind of came too and I had this gun in one hand and this video camera in the other and there was Nina lying on the bed covered in blood, her dress scrunched up around her waist. She wasn’t so beautiful anymore. Dead people look like they have just had this big shock and Nina didn’t look any different. She was just staring at the roof with this genuine look of surprise on her face. Yet, she must have known that something like this was bound to happen. She had such insight, and she said she could see into my soul. That was before she gave me the cold shoulder and talked about having time out and shit like that. I guess that it must have been me that shot her, but like I say, I haven’t any clear memory of doing it. Unlike Lou, where I have a very precise and clear recollection of everything that went on. I remember turning from the bed where Nina lay and there, framed in the doorway, was Lou. Now Lou had been sniffing around Nina for months and I knew she was interested in him. Lou owned the Ugly Agency and Lou liked to be flashy. He threw his money around and dressed extravagantly. Lou drove a little Italian sports car and Lou also drove Nina crazy with the way he gave her little compliments and gifts. Lou just stood there and his mouth formed this little O and he looked at the bed and then me and his hand slipped form the door jamb and he started to turn but not before I shot him in his cute little arse. He pitched forward and I started the camera rolling as he lay there twitching and squealing on the ground. I kicked him hard in the ribs and he rolled over. He was more surprised than mortally hurt and I wanted to have some fun with Lou. To make him suffer for what I had to go through lying in my narrow little bed those nights thinking of Nina and what she was up to while she was cooling it. I propped Lou up against the wall, shoved the camera at him, and ordered him to film me. He didn’t get it at first, the stupid fool. I wanted to see him taping me as I killed him. He did as he was told though. I’ll give him that. Lou had a great sense of self preservation. I told him what a rotten little bastard he was and he nodded and agreed with me even though I could see that he was only humouring me. Then it must have dawned on him because he got real serious and started pleading. He offered me all sorts of things. How we could say that we had come in on Nina and found her being raped by someone who shot her before we could stop him. How he had all this money he would give me. How he would give me back my job again and the good assignments that the new boy-ugly was getting. When I started my little death speech his eyes got really wide and he started squealing again. I told him how I giveth and then I taketh away and that is how it is in this bastardizing life. Then I pulled the trigger and shot Lou in the head. The camera was a little messy what with brains and blood all over but the picture turned out good and I’ll give it to Lou he managed to hold the damn thing steady even though he was terrified. And my little speech was great. It will look good on the news when they play this out for how many nights it will stay as the lead item. There will probably be a big demand for all my old ads to so the agency will do real well out of it. Pity that I won’t be around to see it all and bask in the glory. I guess all the activity I can hear in the background means that someone has heard the shots and have reported it. The cops will be storming up those stairs any minute now with their bulletproof vests and their guns. They will want to talk me down and then they will want me to talk to someone before they decide whether I am sane enough to try for a double homicide. Well I won’t give them the satisfaction. I’ll save them the time and money. I’ll leave them my film and let the media vultures dissect and disseminate.
I can hear their jackboots coming up the stairs. I have made my last statement. I will put the gun into my mouth in a few seconds and I will end this life.
Mia dialled. The idea had not fully formed in her head yet, and, she wasn’t sure this was the right thing to do. A stiffened reply from the other end of the telephone.
‘Wicham Police Station. How may I help?’
Mia felt a temor pass up through her legs, through that region of her body she could not bear to contemplate and then shudder up her spine. She slammed the receiver down. There had to be a better way to do this. To finish this right. To…. Her thoughts trailed off as she thought of the weeks and possibly months that lay ahead.
Meanwhile Fredericke dreamed. He was lying in a narrow bed. His thoughts were drifting off to form dreams. He heard a rustling of wings. Large wings. Was he still awake or now dreaming? He sensed rather than felt, a large presence descend onto the bed. An unpleasant smell accompanied the feather like structure. He sensed the wings enveloping his body. He felt suffocated as the beast crushed his small body.
The little boy climbed the play frame blissfully unaware that not fifty metres away lay two of the most sadistic killers in the history of crime. They, in turn, watched him, one in the certain knowledge that this would be a watershed in their personal and criminal relationship. They watched as his little Mickey Mouse hat, with little white ears, disappeared over the rim of the frame and he somersaulted over the other side. Fredericke moved in what Mia thought to be haste. He quickly halved the distance between himself and the playground equipment. Mia hesitated, then followed, uncertain as to what her part was to be in this unfolding mystery. Suddenly, from the surrounding bushes, a phalanx of bodies emerged, heavily armed and screaming different instructions. ‘Freeze motherfucker’, ‘Police – stop’, ‘Get down on the ground – Now,’ ‘ Police-you’re under arrest.’ Fredericke turned to look at Mia and, for an instant, a look passed over his face of betrayal, of love, of trust, of hate. Mia dropped. Rough hands pulled her arms behind her back and handcuffs were painfully applied. She could feel the cold metal burning into her wrists. She heard the sounds of feet on bodies, she moved her head, and looking under her arm, she could see heavy boots thumping into the side of Frederickes’s body. She grimaced as she was jerked to her feet and she could see Fredericke lying in a pool of blood as they moved their attention to his head. She thought of yelling for them to stop but realised that she may focus their administrations on to herself. She was led away.
The she-hawk circled the barren countryside from hundreds of feet. Her yellow eyes blinked as he pinpointed a rustle in the paddock at the base of the hillock. Her attention became totally focussed on that one spot. Her wings went back, her neck extended; she went into a steep dive. Her speed increase as she rushed headlong to the ground. At the last moment before impact, she thrust forward her legs, talons extended. They struck as the young fledgling tried desperately to regain the shallow hollow, that moments before had been his home. That he had gained the comforting warmth of his brothers and sisters while their mother went in search of food. The she-hawk felt the extra weight as she lifted skywards again, her wings now bearing the extra weight of bird and prey. She felt the life slowly draining from the bleeding body beneath her. She looked for a suitable spot to begin the dismemberment.
Final session 23/9/95. Fredericke continues to be withdrawn. His moments of lucidity, observed during session five and eight, have now receded. It would appear that he has entered a fugue-like state. Occasional snatches of conversation and some scribblings suggest that he has avian fantasies. The relationship of these to past or recent events remains obscure and will probably continue to remain that way unless there is a gross change in Fredericke’s mental state. The subject Mia continues to present a complex clinical puzzle. While my personal opinion is that she is of sound mind and should stand trial as an equal of Frederickes for these ghastly crimes, I am aware that defense counsel has credible psychiatric sources who are willing to testify that she is mentally incompetent. My overbearing impression of Mia is a statement she made to me as I left our last session. After being belligerent and uncooperative for the duration of the session she turned to me as she was being escorted form the room and simply said ‘I did it because I could.’ Out of context, this statement could have meant either her betrayal of Fredericke or her part in the killings.
Mia could see him through the one way mirror. He had aged since the last occasion she had been allowed this privilege. His once proud shoulders now stooped. His skin, once beautiful, seemed sallow and grey. His eyes were dull. She heard the words from the man she assumed to be the lawyer telling Fredericke what he had written on the pad before him. Mia assumed that it was taken verbatim from the statement she had made earlier in the day. She watched as Fredericke’s eyes darted to the mirror of the room, as if he senses that someone, perhaps Mia, was watching. She saw his shoulders slump further as the weight of her accusations sank in. She saw a small, almost imperceptible movement of his head, and then saw his nod of approval. She saw his life leave him as his hands moved forward to grasp the pen proffered by the lawyer. She didn’t know what she felt.
Dedicated to, and inspired by, Susan Elliot (2000-2002, Writing group)
This story could be blended into one seamless one or stand alone as a series of Darwin-type award, statements.
The convicted South African lawyer, Patrick Jouess, who was convicted in November, to seventeen years in a New Zealand prison, has had is sentence extended to twenty-five years as the countries top Crown lawyer has successfully won his case. Spokesman for Solicitor General Quentin Meads denied that his superiors decision to bring about his case had ‘absolutely nothing’ to do with Jouess, convicted of slowly torturing and strangling his wife of thirty years to death after a thirty year marriage, assertion before the trial, that New Zealand police and judiciary were ‘stupid and uninformed underlings and would never prove that he did it’.
English tourist Helen Phillips says she will never return to Dunedin after she was injured in an eco tourism accident late last year. Ms Phillips, speaking from the Aro Rehabilitation Centre in Christchurch says she was treated appallingly by both the eco tourism company and the Dunedin Public Hospital’s Emergency Department. ‘ We were told to get into this bus which had no seat belts and then the driver said that because he had a bad leg he would drive down this steep bank rather than walk down the designated track.” Other passengers were aghast as the bus tipped and then slid backwards down the popular tourist spot steep face. The bus rolled and Ms Phillips was helicoptered to Dunedin Hospital with suspected back injuries. Here, she claims, she was subjected to a two hour wait in freezing conditions before her clothing was cut away in a public area and she was left to sleep in a corridor in appalling conditions. She was discharged the next day without shoes and since, has experienced back pain, which is being investigated at the Aro Centre. A spokesperson for the Dunedin Hospital declined to comment. A spokesperson for the toursit company also declined to comment.
John and Jenny Beresford were outraged to find the wheels on their 1989 Mazda missing when they returned from a night of revelry at the local casino. They had parked their vehicle in a $2 overnight honesty park but had failed to deposit the required fee and display their sticker. The car park is rented from the Ngai Tahu Trust by Patrick Meyer who lives on the site in his converted bus, Mr Beresford (27) said that he saw the bus wasn’t on site and thought they could get away with it. “I know it was a bit cheeky, but its holidays and I was in a good mood.” The pair complained to Mr Meyer who, they claimed, became argumentative and abusive, and kicked in a side panel of their vehicle.
In what has been described as a bizarre turnaround, the ACC has halted payments to Sam Waterson, and demanded he pay back $NZ15, 675 that he has been paid since 1996. Mr Waterson, currently residing in Australia, said that he could not afford to travel back to NZ to dispute the ACC’s claim that he was ripping off the Department and the NZ taxpayer. “I have certificates from doctors that say that I will never be able to return to work. I am in intense pain, and if I am able to do some minor lifting I am on the couch an hour later, crying from the pain.” This comment was in response to the ACC’s production of a twenty-minute video showing Waterson lifting heavy containers and small children while on a beach excursion in Sydney. Mr Waterson fell on a construction site in 1997 while working in Christchurch. His partner and child have since moved to Australia and Mr Waterson joined them in 1999.
The MacDonald Corporation is reportedly furious over a scaremongering campaign that has seen twelve restaurants closed down in the last two weeks. A store manager is claimed to be at the centre of the scandal. According to official sources, the manager, 21 year old Jacob Smellie, opened a letter delivered to the Stevens St outlet, and reported that it contained white powder. Mr Smellie then broke out in a number of rashes around his body and was taken to hospital. Extensive forensic tests have so far failed to reveal any traces of powder or hazardous material.
Bamford, Keith David Duncan – On Tuesday 13th January, in Dunedin. Much loved husband and friend to Fiona, loving father to Julian and Kate and loving son of Margaret and the late Keith, and son-in-law to James and Julia. A farewell and remembrance for Keith will be held at our Anderson St residence on Saturday at 11.00.
Police, called to an Anderson St residence on Tuesday night, were confronted with a grisly scene. A body hanging from a rafter in the garage on the site was well ablaze and was threatening to spread to the adjoining residence. The body was identified as Dr Keith (Dave) Bamford, a local doctor, who had been described as being under much marital pressure in the weeks prior to Christmas.
Relatives of the worlds first hand transplant patient, Egyptian Ada Hassan, are aghast and dumbfounded to learn he wants another hand. Mr Hassan made headlines last year when surgeons grafted a brain dead French motorcyclists hand onto his stump. Hassan asked for the hand to be removed because he became “mentally detached from it”. Hassan infuriated his doctors by regularly losing contact with them and refusing to follow treatment and drug advice they offered. Mr Hassan has recently been vociferous in his condemnation of the French Governments military campaign in his home country.
The fires in the Australian bush may have been extinguished by the heavy overnight rain but nature has dealt a cruel blow to the Peterson family. Their Sydney home had been spared destruction after fires, which have raged for two weeks, failed to breach the five hundred-metre firebreaks the family had built around the hundred-year-old house. Bizarrely, the change in the weather, which bought relief from the blistering temperatures experienced in Sydney, also proved the Peterson family’s downfall. The house was struck by lightening and burnt to the ground soon after the Wednesday evening storm started.
A young couple, believing their daughter had been sexually molested by a male babysitter, set up an attack in order to extract revenge. The child’s mother Amy Joan Brett (19) and father, Brendon John Brett (18), rubbish collector, were jointly charged with assault, and injuring with intent. The court was told that the victim, a long term friend of the couple, had babysat the pairs child’s for approximately 30 minutes, and they noticed her behaviour over the following week as being different, and surmised that she had been sexually assaulted, They jointly planned a revenge attack and invited the babysitter back into their house, punched him in the head and then kicked him into unconsciousness. When the victim revived he was restrained and confronted by Ms Brett brandishing a large kitchen knife and screaming that she wanted to chop off his penis and shove it so far down his throat that it would choke him.
A former South African Special Forces soldier claimed he was suffering form posttraumatic stress disorder after he admitted to an assault of his former girlfriend. The court was told that he lifted the victim off her feet by the throat and, during five hours of menacing, threatened to cut her off at the knees and into small pieces. The women, who has name suppression, was said to be trying to end the relationship.
The first entry in the New Zealand Writers Premier Biography award was not quite what the organisers had in mind. The entry, bearing the pen name Susan E, was a detailed story of the authors, two-day-old, Dachshund dog. ‘We expected Biographies to be about humans and to be about New Zealanders’, the organisers said by way of a prepared press statement.
Albert sprawled at the end of the chaise lounge, his eyes closed, gently snoring. Through the earphones the lazy movement of Haydns gently wafted into his steam and brandy soaked brain. His towel and slipped beneath his navel revealing a cluster of black pubic hairs. The other gentlemen in the sauna discretely averted their eyes. Simon leaned forward and indicated a passage in his book to Gerald he reclined in a high backed wicker chair. He was attached to two snaking wires that protruded from the marbled walls of the low roofed sauna. Their exact purpose was obscure to me, but Gerald said he felt completely rejuvenated after an hour’s treatment. A steward opened the door to our chamber and bought inn a tray of drinks. He was clad only in a pair of brief bathing trunks, still considered risqué outside the confines of the gentleman’s only room. Through the opened door we could hear the squeals of delight and the splashing coming from the ladies swimming pool. Through the warm, patterned flooring we could feel the gentle thrum of the huge engines of the trans-Atlantic liner SS Imperator as she surged across the Atlantic from Liverpool to New York at 11 knots. I had been surprised when I had negotiated the gangplank and entered the cavernous entry lounge to this fine vessel. Prominently displayed was a huge sign that read ‘First and Second Class Passengers are asked to refrain from throwing money to Steerage passengers- By order of Captain S.C Baden-Moore SS Imperator.
Deep in the bowels of the ship the twenty-two stewardesses of the SS Imperator lined up facing the Stewardess-in-Charge. Each clutched a balled up kapok lifejacket, a full-length oilskin, and a small first aid bag. Their matching black-trapped shoes, candy-striped overdresses with stark-deep-darted collars, and matching starched hats brightened the mahogany panelled smoking room that had been temporarily set aside for lifeboat drill practice.
“In the unlikely event that the alarm should be announced you are all to proceed to your designated station. Your primary responsibility is to the First then Second Class passengers whom you will reassure and make sure that they are equipped with their personalised buoyancy aids and survival clothing. The steerage passenger gateways are to be securely bolted and will only be opened once all top floor passengers are safely in the water in the lifeboats. You should make sure that passengers under your care are properly attired for the weather conditions and that they are reassured that rescue is only a matter of minutes away,” the stern face Stewardess-in-Charge announced as she nervously fingered her clipboard and motioned toward her own survival kit spread out on the table before her. “Now lets look at what your kit contains.”
Even deeper in the bowels of the SS Imperator, hidden from the imperious top floor passengers the on-board farm readied itself for morning milking. The P&O line had researched potential customers before setting up the trans-Atlantic line and whereas passengers were perfectly content to eat salted beef and mutton (to get that authentic sea experience) they absolutely needed to have fresh milk in their tea or coffee. Hence each liner harboured a small herd of dairy cows who provided fresh milk for passengers who paid the full fare.
“Madame Prosecutor – what are the charges that you bring before this court?”
“If it pleases your honor I have two charges for this weeks sitting of the court.”
“It’s not a matter of whether it pleases me or not Ms Brill. Could you expedite this matter and read what you have for us this week.”
“Pardon your honor. The Crown wishes to prosecute Hin Sing Chun for threatening to kill, threatening to injury, and injuring with intent of Honi Kupi Ramsey on the 12 of July 2002. The prosecution also wishes to prosecute James Solomon Purcell for threatening to kill Marie Jane Colson on February 23, 2002.”
“Very well. We will now pick a jury. Members of the balloted jury. You must understand that you may be challenged by any or either of the opposing lawyers or, indeed, by the defendants themselves. This is no reflection on you as a person – it is merely the process by which justice works. Madam, please call your jurors.”
The lady with the very strong glasses spun the ballot box and pulled the first name from within.
“Stuart Jon Paterson.”
The guy two down the row from me drew in an audible breath and stood and strolled toward the jury box. The accused stood sullenly in the box provided for him at the left of the court, flanked by a guard dressed in green.
“Filipino Sofa Tupela”
The accused, a tall, gangly fellow of obvious Asian descent looked at the young Islander with tattoo’s and hair tied in a ponytail, then indicated to his counsel that he should be challenged.
The pacific guy looked at the judge as if imploring him to somehow change the lawyer’s opinion, but turned and sullenly walked back to take his seat at the rear of the courtroom.
Again the defendant nodded to his counsel and the guy was challenged. I had the sudden thought that this might be about race. Did the court know about a person’s race or occupation before a trial? Where did they get that information? Did they know that I, despite looking like a Pakeha, and having a real Pakeha name, actually had over a quarter Maori blood in me?
“Grant James McDonald.”
Grant James McDonald. Shit! That’s me. I stand and wait for them to challenge me but the accused doesn’t even look up at me as I start my journey to the front of the court and the jury box. I sit there while the rest of the jury is called up. Two more challenges, one from the prosecution for a Chinese lady and one from the defense for a nice looking lady who looks utterly devastated as she is forced to return to her seat. The judge tells the jury they must now be sworn in and then must retire to the jury room and choose a foreman, though it can be a lady if they wish. We file out.
Its not much trouble selecting a foreman as no-one wants to do it and some guy in a suit just takes charge and says we should vote and someone else says well you seem to know what’s going on, why don’t you do it. And he accepts and two minutes later the attendant shows us back into the courtroom. I’m sitting next to the really nice lady who has smiled at me twice and I think I might be onto something here. I remember that movie where the jury all got hooked up with each other and had to spend a couple of nights in a motel and it got real steamy. It had Demi Moore in it and she really got the hots for someone, though when I think back it might have been the accused. The prosecuting lawyer stands up and gravelly addressed us.
“Ladies and gentlemen of the jury. Today you asked asked to hear evidence that this man, the accused, Hin Sing Chun, did threaten to kill, threaten to ion jury, and injure with intent, Honi Kupi Ramsey. The facts of the case are simple; it is only the extent of the harm that the accused intended that is in dispute. On June 20 Mr. Ramsey was innocently walking down Cargill Place and proceeding to cross the signed pedestrian crossing at the intersection with James Street. Mr. Hin, driving at high speed, braked suddenly to stop for Mr. Ramsey and knocked him off his feet, onto the road, where Mr. Ramsey sustained minor injures. Mr. Ramsey, got to his feet and Mr. Hin leapt from his car and started yelling in Chinese in an agitated fashion, then proceeded to assault Mr. Ramsey, first with his hands and feet, then, after returning to his car, with a baton. Mr. Ramsey sustained cuts to his arms, hands and face, and sustained an injury to his heads, which required twelve stitches. Mr. Hin then returned to his car and drove in at high speed, narrowly avoiding the prone body of Mr. Ramsey as he lay bleeding and in much distress on the roadway. Mr. Ramsey was attended to, at the site, by St Johns ambulance staff, and in hospital by emergency staff. I have sworn affidavits as to what happened and I intend to call two witnesses to this event. This was an unprovoked attack of a very serious nature and I would urge the jury to bring a verdict of guilty on all charges.”
The judge shifted in his chair and glared at the prosecutor.
“Madam, just stick to the facts of the case at this stage, You will have your chance to convince the good members in your summing up. Does the defense wish to make an opening statement?”
“We do my Lord.” A small, skinny man who looked as a though he had slept in his clothes stepped forward and shuffled some papers in his hand then started to walk up and down before us, waving his hands furiously. “There is more to this case than what my good colleague has outlined,” he said,” my client is the victim of racial abuse and a concentrated campaign on the part of Mr. Ramsey and his colleagues to discredit an honest, hard working member of our community. It is our contention that Mr. Hin was offering help to Mr. Ramsey, who had not been struck by the car but had been intoxicated at the time and fell down, and his intentions were misunderstood and he was threatened and retaliated. He protected himself and his fiancée who was in the car and did not inflict the so-called head, facial and limb injuries, which have been detailed. He admits to pushing Mr. Ramsey, and warding off several blows, and he admits to using strong language, some of which was in his own tongue. He contends that Mr. Ramsey and his friends misunderstood what he was saying and misunderstood what his intentions a]=wee. He also contests that he was racially insulted and his girlfriend was called a number of names, which he considers unnecessary given she had no involvement in the incident other than being a passenger. We intend to present three witnesses who will attest ton the accuracy of Mr. Hins recall of events.”
Now I could see why the accused didn’t want Pacific Islanders or Maori on the jury. He obviously thought they would be prejudiced against him. Then I remembered the little booklet that we had to read before we started. It implored us not to gather evidence on our own and only listen to what was reported in the court. I had to ask myself – was I racially prejudiced Asians? Ha! Of course I wasn’t. It flashed through my mind about that politician who said that he was descended from some Chinese tribe. Was he a Maori? I couldn’t really remember as he had a white sounding name and he said a lot of anti-Maori things. I thought that Chinese were all right. They seemed to be good at fish and chips and they all seemed to work hard and keep their noses to the ground. But they did keep to themselves and a lot of the young ones flouted their wealth in front of ordinary New Zealanders. I wondered if the guy was actually born in this country or had just arrived. He seemed to understand what was going on and he was dressed Ok so maybe he had been here a long time. I looked at my fellow jurors and they all were white, and the lawyers were all white, the judge was white and I didn’t see any Asian faces in the audience. Didn’t he have family? I tried to put myself in his place and I kind of got what it must feel like for him. The prosecuting lawyer called her first witness.
“Call Janine Mihaka.”
This sullen looking chick with straggly black hair and shabby clothes shambled through the court
“Ms Mihaka. Could you tell the court,” and he gestures towards the jury box because, alas, save for a solitary reporter from the local paper sitting in the press gallery, the court is despairingly empty, “what you saw on the day of June 20, 2002.”
The girl looks stupidly at this man as if he is some kind of alien and he stares back at her for what seems an age.
“The morning of the accident that we are in this court today to hear about.”
“Oh! Yeah! Well! We was walking across the crossing at, you know, outside of, and down from Maccas, and this car comes screaming down the hill and clobbers Hina. Then this guy gets out and starts jabbering away and then he bashes Hina and starts to kick him and stuff.”
The judge removes his glasses and holds his hands up to indicate that everything should stop.
“Ms, Ms ,” he puts his glasses back on and reads from a piece of paper in front of him,”Ms Meehaki.”
The girl looks up at him and her eyes brighten and she says in a load voice
“Miss Mihaka, Miss Rayleene Mihaka.”
“Ah yes, indeed, Miss Mihaka, thank you, I see that your name is spelled incorrectly on my briefing document here. Could you be a little more precise as to the time and location of the incident”
The girl just stares at him and then looks downward as if she has failed an exam or something.
“What time was it?”
“Oh! About 7 or so. They had just started breakfasts at the shop next to Macca’s and we thought about going in there because they have these choice sausage rolls but Jason wanted a burger and fries so we had to go to Macca’s,” she said somewhat brightly.
“And the location?”
And so it went on. A tedious process of listening to each of these people trot out a story which suggested that these innocent, fun-loving, youngsters were joyfully going about their lawful business when this apparition from South East Asia swirled out of the mist and descended on poor old Honi and beat the living crap out of him. The defense lawyer didn’t seem to be able to get a word in as every time he tried to tease more information from the recalcitrant trio that constituted Honi’s friends, they just shrugged their shoulders and raised an eyebrow and intoned “Dunno”. I could sense the unease amongst the other members of the jury and the judge looked like he was about to pick up his sheaf of papers and leave the room to go fishing or anything that would remove him from this tedious boredom. All the time this was going on I couldn’t but help look at the defendant, Hin Sung Chun, who seemed to either be disinterested in what was going on or couldn’t understand a word of what was being said.
Heh! I just starting to think what sort of example do these people think they are setting. They start at 10.00 am and really its not 10.15 until the fat arsed judge sits down and jokes with the lawyers and tells them off like this is primary school of something. Why do they put up with it? I wouldn’t have my boss talk to me that way. Then they break for lunch at 12.00 or so and don’t get back till 2.15 pm, but its more like 2.30 and then they break for afternoon tea which goes for half an hour and the they finish at 5.00. Its like they are saying ‘work is flexible and we take as much time as we want to diddle around to show you how important we are and how stupid you are, but really the impression I am getting is for a group of people who don’t really give a rats arse about what they are doing, only about there own self importance.
I realise that now we have to decide has actually happened on that fateful day. We file out of the courtroom to the little jury room and immediately there is a fight to get to the toilets and the coffee and tea. Then the person who is the foreman asks us how we want to go about this. Someone suggests that we should perhaps have a vote first to see how the land lies or something like that so we all write down on a piece of scrap paper guilty or not guilty until someone else points out there are actually three charges and so we have to start over again and then someone wants it explained again what each charge means and an hour goes by and we still haven’t even had a first vote. Then an old crusty guy who looks like he sleeps on the streets and who sat behind me and I swear smelt so bad that I had trouble concentrating says that he thinks that anybody who doesn’t take the trouble to speak English deserves everything he gets. I can’t work out which person he is talking about – is it Honi or Hin? I notice that everybody sort of edges away from the old guy but he is on a roll and he starts raving about how he was once cheated out of a whole lot of money by some Chink, and then the Chinese Mafia, and then Japs. I can see it’s going to be a long day.
“It’s Murphy’s Law,” a female voice says, and I swivel around to catch who it is. It’s the nice looking Demi Moore lady but she has a scowl on her face that instantly banishes any thoughts of in court trysts with her from my mind. “It’s Murphy’s Law. The one day that I made arrangements to meet someone for lunch and I’m stuck her listening to all this garbage. It’s obvious he did it. Why don’t we just all agree he’s guilty and then we can get away from here? To top it off my bloody car is parked in a two-hour park and I am going to get a ticket. Guilty I say. What’s the argument?”
My former admiration for this woman has instantly disappeared. I mutter to her that we are talking about a man’s life here.
“What do you mean a man’s life,” she replies and glares at me as if I am the accused and I am the one person who has been singly responsible for her missing her lunchtime appointment and getting a parking fine. “You can tell by looking at his eyes that he’s guilty. The evidence is pretty obvious. This – ,” she looks down at her list of notes, which I note are barely two or three lines and seem confined to the names and ages of the main actors in this drama, “Hin Shun fella is obviously anti new Zealander and he just lost his rag and lit into this guy. He is lucky that he stopped when he did. He could have killed this – ,” again she consults her notes, “Mr Ramsey.”
The old guy with the bad smell nods in agreement and he writes something down on his pad.
I ask the group if they have considered that Hin’s girlfriend or fiancée’s account of the incident might mean anything in terms of what really happened at the pedestrian crossing. She had stated, in halting English, that the man who had been at the center of this dispute appeared to be intoxicated or something as he had been staggering across the road and “Harry’ had stopped before he even got the pedestrian crossing and the group had started yelling and insulting Harry, saying things about chinks and slants and other things she would not repeat in court. Harry had got out of the car to see what had happened to the man lying on the road and told her to stay put and lock the doors because he thought the situation looked dangerous. She had broken into a lot of foreign words here and the court had not elected to seek any clarification as to what they might mean.
“He put her up to it,” my former dream girl snaps. “She clearly is reciting a rehearsed story. She didn’t even have the good sense to stay talking in English. I didn’t believe a word of what she said.”
I start to tell her that we have to listen to the evidence that is before us and draw our own conclusions, but, and its a big but, the friends of Honi are far from in agreement as to what actually happened leading up to the incident. The affidavits from the ambulance and hospital admitting staff also query whether there was any injury consistent with being hit by a car.
“That’s the sort of crap they talk about on TV,” snarled the dirty old guy between his teeth. “They only do that sort of thing on those crime shows. No-one can actually tell how an injury happens.”
To my horror I see the rest of the jury nodding and writing on their pads and I start to get a sinking feeling that we are going to make a judgment here that is not based on facts or what we have, as a jury, been instructed to do. I take comfort that I can always be the dissenting voice and no matter if all eleven of them decide on this mans guilt I can still say no, and he will get off, or at least have another trial.
We have a break and I am comforted that maybe some of my fellow jurors will see some sense while they down a coffee and a quick sandwich. Some are keen to return to work and have had enough of the trial which they see as black and white yet two secret votes have left us with nine to three in favor of a guilty plea. I wonder who my two fellow conspirators might be. I pass a couple of skinheads in the court corridor who are high-fiving and giggling.
“Shit hot! Only got PD and two C-notes fine, and they can forget about that. Silly bastard reduced it, after that gutless witness failed to show, to assault. Lets get out of this shithole and I’ll show you what I’ve been saving for after.”
I see a couple of desperate looking girl-women rise from the bench and trail their men out of the courtroom. As they leave the building their shoulders straighten and they strut down the street, eyeballing everyone and shoving into people who get in their way.
After lunch is no better. The foreman of the jury wants to have an open vote so that they can better direct their arguments and so we have vote on whether we will have an open or closed vote but we can’t even agree on that. I seem to be the only one defending the accused and, frankly, I am running out of arguments as to why we should set him free. I am almost ready to give up when this guy who has been sitting silently in the corner doodling on his pad looks up and says, “how is it that this one guy could do all this damage when there were three, strong males and a couple of capable females, much bigger, and I would say, much more used to this sort of confrontation – there in the wee small hours – full of alcohol and god knows what else?”
Everyone sort of looks startled and we all look from one to another.
“I reckon he didn’t do it. I reckon there is more to this than meets the eye and we have only got part of the story. I reckon that the judge said that we had to convict only if there is enough evidence to remove all reasonable doubt from our minds that this man is innocent. I don’t think we have that. I remember when I was a student that it was considered good sport, when you were tanked up, to go out and give some of the overseas student a hard time. Maybe, if they got stroppy, bash them around a bit and show them whose country this was. Maybe steal something of theirs. I know I did it once or twice, and I can tell you, I’m not proud of it, but no-one used to complain so we just kept at it. Usually the ‘victim’ had enough souse to keep their heads down and shut up. I reckon this crowd might just be capable of this. Irrespective of that, we haven’t got enough credible evidence to go one way or the other. We have to vote not guilty.”
I sensed relief from around the table. The old guy sniffed and started drawing thick dark lines through this pad and Demi Moore suddenly found she needed to adjust her bra strap and she filled in a couple of minutes writhing around with her clothing and then finished by glaring at me and my new friend.
I think its time for another vote,” he continued and started ripping up paper. The foreman looked a little disgruntled that his role had been usurped but then he also realised that we had been sitting here now for nearly two hours and hadn’t got anywhere. Reluctantly he nodded and distributed another lot of paper. This time it came back six-six.
“It’s interesting that the police haven’t called any of the medical witness’s into the courtroom to give evidence,” Juror No3 announces after the break. I have to squirm around sideways to see the nametag and it says Brian. “I mean,” he continues, “it seems to me that there is an issue with the injuries maybe not coming form being hit with a car and establishing whether they are consistent with an assault. This is a new twist and I take the opportunity to ask the foreman if we can have this clarified. There are question sheets for this but he seems reluctant to take the initiative. I grab one and start filling it out despite his protestations. It’s hard to frame the question and I am aware that legalese can sometimes re-interpret what it is you are asking and you may not get another chance.
Honi and his mates had been on the piss and then the hootch since late the night before. All he could remember about it was that at about 6 the dope had run out and there was a big argument about where they would score some more from and who should go and get it, There had been some shoving and then he had been on the ground and someone had been kicking the shit out of his head. He remembered putting his hands up to stop it but it had just gone on relentlessly until whoever it was had either lost interest or simple run out of energy. He remembered them all sort of making up and stumbling off to Herbs, where they could be guaranteed a pick-me-up before going on to some serious drug searching. They had been wandering across the bottom of Cargill Place when this fucking red Datsun had come screaming down the hill and Honi had nearly pissed himself because he didn’t think the damn thing would be able to stop and he just fell to his knees and put his hands over his head and rolled into a ball. He had looked up and there was a number plate with HICHUN on it and he had then realised somewhere in the back of his dope and alcohol ravaged brain that maybe he could regain a bit of his lost pride and he staggered to his feet to be confronted by this gook who was jabbering away in some weird language and throwing his arms in the air and Honi took a swing at him. To his amazement the gook starting doing all this kung fu shit and Honi got real scared and when the guy pushed him he just collapsed on the ground and writhed about. The guy must have panicked because the next thing was that all Honi’s mates were gathered around him and someone screamed and then there were sirens and ambulances and he was in hospital and that was when he hatched his plan. Shit! Everyone knew they were taking over the country and who would they believe, a fucking chink or the tangata whenua. So they made this story up and after a while they sort of believed it and everyone forgot about the dope and the fighting and they thought they had a real thing going – like they were doing something for the country.