Kawhia shooting: Orren Williams cleared of murder charges

Belinda Feek, NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Mon, 5 Oct 2020, 6:35PM
The Hamilton jury deliberating Orren Williams' fate has returned its verdict. (Photo / Belinda Feek)
The Hamilton jury deliberating Orren Williams' fate has returned its verdict. (Photo / Belinda Feek)

Kawhia shooting: Orren Williams cleared of murder charges

Belinda Feek, NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Mon, 5 Oct 2020, 6:35PM

A Hamilton jury has cleared a Kawhia man of multiple charges after a group of intruders smashed their way into his home looking to steal drugs.

Orren Scott Williams, 38, has been on trial in the High Court at Hamilton for the past two weeks defending one charge of murder and three of wounding with intent to cause grievous bodily harm after the incident at his Harbour Rd home on June 6, last year.

Faalili Moleli Fauatea, 23, died after being shot in the back while Shaun Te Kanawa, Grayson Toilolo and Joe Tumaialu all received gunshot wounds.

The jury found him not guilty of both murder and manslaughter.

He has also been cleared of all three charges of wounding with intent to cause grievous bodily harm.

The jury returned their verdicts at 4pm today.

All verdicts were unanimous.

Williams and his wife, Taryn, hugged in the public gallery as he was released from the dock by Justice Mary Peters.

However a man, a relative of the deceased, swore from the gallery after the judge left the room before abusing Williams as he sat outside the courtroom with his wife and supporters.

He was escorted from the court while still swearing, telling Williams to "rot in hell".

Asked how he felt leaving the court a free man, Williams said "just relief, really".

"I'm looking forward to seeing my kids," he said, while Taryn added that it was all a bit "surreal".

Crown prosecutor Jacinda Hamilton and defence counsel Philip Morgan, QC, delivered their closing submissions on Thursday and Friday last week.

Justice Mary Peters delivered her summation of the case this morning before sending them out to begin their deliberations at 11.50am.

She began by reminding them there was no dispute that Williams had fired the shots and fatally injured Fauatea and wounding the three others.

She said it wasn't up to Williams to prove his innocence, the Crown brought the charges so they had the burden of proof.

The Crown had to prove beyond reasonable doubt that he wasn't acting in self-defence at the time he fired the shots at the group of men.

If they were unsure, they could find Williams not guilty.

In finding him guilty, they then need to decide Williams' state of mind at the time.

When taking into account the evidence, she told the jury that they didn't have to take into account everything a certain witness said if it didn't make sense or they didn't believe it was reliable.

It was up to them to decide which witnesses were credible and reliable which were two different things.

If they believed Williams' evidence or it seemed a "reasonable possibility" that it happened that way, then they could find him not guilty.

If unsure, they needed to take the position "most favourably to Mr Williams based on the evidence".

As they assessed the issue of self-defence, the jury had to put themselves in Williams' shoes and how he honestly believed it was happening at the time.

If they found him guilty, the force would be "excessive, not reasonable."

Beyond reasonable doubt was being left with an honest and reasonable uncertainty in their mind after having considered all of the evidence fairly.

The Crown had submitted that grievous bodily harm was a no-brainer when someone fires a high-powered firearm towards people and a car.

Defence counsel Philip Morgan submitted that his client was in a panic and thought he was under threat and that the men were coming back for him, especially, as his client had told the jury, that he returned after re-loading to find the vehicle pointing up the driveway with its headlights on.

The Crown had argued that Williams was angry and "shooting to kill" as the four men fled his home after smashing their way in armed with a machete and shotgun.

Balaclava-clad, the men then had a tussle with Williams in his hallway before spilling into the lounge and dining area, knocking over furniture and pulling down curtains in the process.

Taryn was also dragged into the lounge after being hit in the back with the butt of the shotgun and held at gunpoint as she sat on her knees with her head down.

It was then that Williams jumped up grabbing a taiaha and swinging it wildly at the gunman before making a run for the laundry where his gun cabinet was.

As he grabbed one and loaded it, the men ran off towards their car, without any large bags of cannabis which they had gone there for.

What happens as they fled formed the basis of the charges and the critical point for the jury as they had to decide whether the force used by Williams - firing eight shots - was reasonable and justified in the circumstances that he believed them to be.

Defence counsel Philip Morgan QC said his client was panicked and fearful as he wasn't sure what the men's motives were, whether they were planning on coming back and Williams himself had submitted that once he started firing he was "committed", as the men then knew where he was.

He didn't want them coming back.