Saturday, May 28, 2016

Guilty or not guilty? Roger Rogerson and Glen McNamara murder trial nears end

FOR those involved in the murder trial of former detectives Roger Rogerson and Glen McNamara, there will soon be little to do but wait.
Police, lawyers, the families of both men and their accused victim Jamie Gao, as well as the two accused themselves, have been suspended in time, frozen since a few moments inside a Padstow storage shed on the afternoon of May 20, 2014 when three people walked in and only two came out.
The trial is nearing its end, with the jury expected to begin considering a verdict in coming days, as soon as the barristers involved for the Crown, Rogerson and McNamara finish their closing address, their last chance to convince the jury.
At present there are still 13 members of the jury, as extra members were empaneled due to an estimated trial length of three months, and one will be removed through a ballot system just before consideration of the verdict begins.
Both men have pleaded not guilty to murder and taking part in the supply of 2.78kg of ice brought by Gao to the storage unit for a planned lucrative drug deal.

While both men have a right to silence and were under no obligation to give evidence, they chose to take the witness stand and give their accounts over several gruelling days of questioning by their own lawyers, as well as cross- examination. 
What emerged were two very different stories, told in starkly contrasting manners.
McNamara, his voice often becoming distressed, says Rogerson shot Gao while “seething with anger” over the handover of drugs and cash, and then threatened the safety of McNamara and the lives of his daughters if he didn’t co-operate with the disposal of the body.
Rogerson, whose voice remained steady as he gripped the witness box with both hands each day, said that by the time he entered the storage unit Gao was dead on the floor, with his friend McNamara telling him the young man had “shot himself” during a “real struggle” between the pair for the gun.
Crown prosecutor Christopher Maxwell QC told the jury — as he did in his opening address in the early days of February — that they do not have to determine which man was the shooter in order to return verdicts of guilty to murder, as the two men are being tried under a joint criminal enterprise.
Mr Maxwell presented to the jury lists of circumstances he said prosecutors have revealed in the evidence as proof of the Crown case of beyond reasonable doubt.
For McNamara, they include the more than 20 meetings he had with Gao in the months before the execution, documented by CCTV footage and text message exchanges, and internet searches on his laptop for the type of firearm that police believe was used to kill the 20-year-old — the murder weapon has never been found.
McNamara said in his evidence he was meeting with Gao because the university student was a source for a planned true crime book on drug syndicates and Asian triad gangs, but Mr Maxwell said there has been no evidence of written notes made by the 57-year-old for this book.
Prosecutors have also pointed to Rogerson making a trip to Rent A Space the day before the murder to remove office furniture from the shed that had been leased by his friend Michael Maguire, who has since died.
Rogerson’s lawyer George Thomas has rubbished the suggestion the 75-year-old acted in a “joint criminal enterprise” with McNamara, drawing on a window of three minutes and 19 seconds when his client was not inside shed 803.
Mr Thomas also suggested to the jury — who he said should consider themselves like “bees ... bees working in a hive” towards a verdict — that if there had been a plan all along to kill the university student, then both Rogerson and McNamara would have waited inside to “ambush” Gao.
Mr Thomas told the jury that “Glen McNamara intended to kill Jamie Gao”.
“That was why the surfboard bag (in which Gao’s body was removed from the shed) was there (in McNamara’s car). It was how the body was to be taken out,” Mr Thomas said.
He said that, if there had been a plan to kill Gao all along on Rogerson’s part, he would have been in the shed at the same time as the other two — “not arrive later”.
“What is the point of that?” Mr Thomas asked the jury.
“(If that was the plan) you would have Rogerson (already) in there to do the killing, you would have the surfboard bag ready ... have the site properly prepared if there is a planned execution.”
Mr Thomas urged the jury to “reject outright” the claim by McNamara that, when they took Gao’s body out to sea the day after the shooting, Rogerson fired two shots from the boat as he warned him not to contact police.
McNamara’s barrister Gabriel Wendler will begin his closing address next week, and will be followed by a summary from Justice Geoffrey Bellew.
The jury will retire and return only to ask a question or deliver their verdicts.
For those involved in the case, there will be nothing to do but wait inside the historic King St court complex — nearly four months of witnesses, submissions and often tense cross-examination boiling down to one word or two.
Guilty or not guilty.

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