Monday, March 8, 2010

Palm Island death-in-custody case reopened

I don't think there is much doubt that the big cop dropped his knee onto the black guy while the black guy was down

FORMER Palm Island policeman Chris Hurley will be the star witness in his bid to clear his name over the Mulrunji death in custody when effectively the third inquest into the November 2004 tragedy is reopened. Deputy Chief Magistrate Brian Hine today opens the week-long inquest on Palm Island, a former Aboriginal penal colony near Townsville, to re-examine how Mulrunji Doomadgee, 36, died on the floor of a jail cell.

Senior-Sergeant Hurley, acquitted of manslaughter by an all-white jury, is set down as the last of nine witnesses to give evidence into the death that led to the 2004 Palm Island riots.

Today, three Palm Islanders will testify, as lawyers for Snr-Sgt Hurley seek to overturn findings of coroner Christine Clements that he likely caused the death with a punch.

Frail elderly witness Penny Sibley, who will appear today, has repeatedly claimed she saw the policeman strike the Aboriginal hunter in the face.

The emotion-charged inquest will be streamed live by video link out of the small Palm Island courtroom for the island's 3500-strong population. Palm Island mayor Alf Lacey said a finding of accidental death would be a slap in the face for the family and islanders in their fight for justice.

Doomadgee bled to death after a tussle with the powerfully built 201cm policeman, suffering a black eye, bruised jaw, four broken ribs and a liver cleaved in two across his spine. Doctors testified the fatal injuries were more akin to those found in a car crash and most likely caused by a knee to the abdomen than a punch.

Sen-Sgt Hurley, in his trial, changed his evidence and admitted he caused the death in a complicated fall in arresting the heavily intoxicated indigenous man on a public nuisance charge. He wants the coroner's 2006 findings set aside in his fight for innocence backed by the Queensland Police Union and fellow police officers who threatened to march on Parliament in support of their besieged colleague.

The Crime and Misconduct Commission, which has indicated their report will be scathing, are yet to release findings into the botched handling of the initial police investigation.



Unknown said...

John. The first coroners inquiry was thrown out because the appeal courts found that the first coroner came to conclusions that were not supported by the evidence. In fact she provided a version that was inconsistent with all witnesses, including those witnesses who blamed the officer. The trial of the officer also found that conclusion of guilt was not supported by the evidence. No wonder the officer wants to get a fair hearing at last - one based on the facts. Perhaps a more important question is how did an earlier coroner come to a conclusion that was not supported by known facts? Is such a person suitable to continue serving as a coroner and magistrate? Have they bought prejudices and outside influences into the decision making process? How about we let this Coroner's inquest play out to it's conclusion before damming it. The pain of the family and friends of the deceased would not need to be revisited if the first inquest had been done in a rational, balanced manner.

warramunga said...

This is nothing but a witch hunt. This office took a trouble making drunken aboriginal off the streets.
That is his job.
Any other decent people would salute this bloke for doing his job.
Well I do.
Thanks Chris and all best wishes mate.