Monday, May 02, 2011

Case as shallow as a birdbath but Australian prosecutors pursue it TWICE

OVER the past four years, Philip Leung has wept many times for his dead lover, Mario Guzzetti. But on Thursday, after he was acquitted for a second time of his partner's killing, he wept for himself.

Mr Leung, 50, is the first person in NSW legal history to be tried twice over the same homicide investigation. The case was only possible because of the state's controversial double jeopardy laws, introduced in 2006. Now he wants the legislation reversed to prevent anyone else being tried for the same death twice; what he calls the "ultimate injustice".

"My life will never be the same," he told The Sun-Herald. "Not only did I lose the man I love, I was accused of killing him. Before I knew it, I was locked up in jail. Nobody cared that I missed Mario's funeral, or that I had as many questions as anyone."

Mr Leung, a jeweller, began dating Mr Guzzetti in 2001. The pair shared common interests, including opera, and by 2004 they were living together. "We loved each other unconditionally. Like everyone, we argued occasionally and always over silly things."

On the morning of April 7, Easter Saturday, in 2007, a row erupted over a tiler's bag of cement that was obstructing access at their home in Alexandria. About the same time, neighbours heard a loud noise, like a shelf falling. After several minutes' silence, Mr Leung was heard wailing hysterically.

The first witnesses at the scene found him at the foot of the stairs, rocking back and forth while cradling his blood-stained partner, who had sustained head injuries. Mr Guzzetti , 72, had stopped breathing by the time ambulance officers arrived.

Later that morning Mr Leung was charged with murder, accused of killing Mr Guzzetti with a juicer the couple owned.

He spent more than five months in jail before being released on bail. At his trial, in May 2009, prosecutors alleged that Mr Leung had inflicted the injuries. Medical and scientific evidence was inconclusive, stating that the injuries were consistent with both a physical attack and a fall downstairs, followed by unskilled attempts at resuscitation.

Before Mr Leung could give evidence, Justice Stephen Rothman delivered a directed not-guilty verdict, ruling that the Crown had failed to properly establish how Mr Guzzetti had died.

However, prosecutors leaned on the controversial double jeopardy laws, which allow for appeals and retrials in homicide cases that are settled by a judge's directed verdict to the jury. As a result, Mr Leung was charged again, this time with manslaughter.

"I can't describe how that felt," he recalled. "I was so relieved to be walking out of court for the final time [after the murder verdict]. "They had 28 days to appeal and on the last day I received word that I would have to fight all over again."

On Thursday, after Justice Michael Adams directed a second jury to return a not-guilty verdict, four years of emotion spilled from Mr Leung. He had just become the first person in Australian legal history to be found not guilty twice by a judge's directed verdict.

"I felt him [Mario] alongside me always," Mr Leung said. "I still miss him. Only now can I finally begin to grieve the most beautiful, loving person I ever met."

Mr Leung said he intended to sue the police for compensation.

Original report here. (Via Australian Politics)

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