30 Jul 2014

Jury in homeless death case retires

1:32 pm on 30 July 2014

The jury deciding the case of a teenager accused of beating homeless man Edwin Linder and leaving him for dead in an Auckland alleyway has retired to consider its verdict.

Steven Ray Churchis, 18, has denied murdering Mr Linder.

Justice Venning summed up the case to the jurors in the High Court at Auckland on Wednesday.

Mr Churchis sat in the dock with his head bowed as Crown prosecutor John Dixon made his closing arguments on Tuesday, taking the jurors through the different versions of the beating.

Two friends of Mr Churchis described seeing him kick and then stomp on Mr Linder.

Mr Churchis himself said he kicked Mr Linder before knocking him out with a blow from his elbow and throwing a combination of punches.

Mr Dixon said Mr Churchis had said he was acting in defence of his friends but he said even if that were true, the violence was extreme.

He said Mr Churchis was acting in anger, rather than defence, when he bashed the disabled man and that he had become angry because Mr Linder had defecated where they planned to sleep, he had not got out of the lane fast enough, and Mr Linder had previously stolen his bag.

Mr Dixon said he kicked and punched Mr Linder, even after he was unconscious.

Mr Dixon also pointed out that the fatal assault on Mr Linder was not Mr Churchis' only violent act of the day; Mr Churchis had thrown a bottle at another young man during a drinking session in Albert Park.

Mr Churchis later told police he attacked the man because he would not stop talking to his girlfriend. He also threw a series of punches and broke the man's nose.

Mr Dixon said while the official cause of death was pneumonia, the pathologist and medical staff had said that was brought on as a direct result of Mr Linder's head injury.

Mr Churchis' lawyer, Peter Winter, said Mr Linder had been attacked 12 years before and had been stabbed in the head with a screw driver. That made him more susceptible to future head injuries.

He said there was evidence to suggest that following his client's kick, Mr Linder fell back and struck his head on a concrete ledge. He said it was the fall that could have caused his injury.

Mr Winter told the jury they must look at the situation through the eyes of a then 17-year-old who had been drinking and was described as being "pretty out of it".

He said Mr Churchis acted as Mr Linder approached his friends.

He accepted his client had a chip on his shoulder but that did not mean he walked around trying to murder people. Mr Winter said Mr Linder had assault convictions for lashing out at people when being told to move on.

The jury retired at 11am on Wednesday.