17 May 2010

Supreme Court orders retrial in Gwaze case

8:23 pm on 17 May 2010

In a first in New Zealand, the Supreme Court has ordered a retrial for a man acquitted of murder.

George Gwaze was acquitted of raping and murdering his 10-year-old niece Charlene Makaza in the High Court at Christchurch in 2008, but the Crown challenged some of the judge's decisions in the trial.

The defence case was that Charlene Makaza, who was HIV positive, died of natural causes while the Crown said George Gwaze raped and suffocated her.

The Crown appealed on the basis that the trial judge, Justice Chisholm, allowed hearsay evidence in the defence's favour and then refused to allow a Crown witness back on the stand to discuss that new evidence.

This evidence, from Professor Heinz Rode, stated Miss Makaza's injuries were consistent with those of young AIDS sufferers in South Africa.

The Court of Appeal dismissed the appeal but its decision was split, which led to the challenge in the Supreme Court.

On Monday, that court ruled in the Crown's favour, finding that allowing the hearsay evidence led to a substantial miscarriage of justice.