A jury was hurriedly ushered from a Christchurch courtroom when the man they had just convicted of drug importation began shouting in the dock and a woman in the public gallery joined in.
Thirty-five-year-old Teariki Adrian Kura shouted, “Oh man, f— off, that’s bullshit,” as the jury delivered its guilty verdict after less than an hour of deliberations.
“He’s not guilty,” shouted the woman, turning to a witness who was seated in the back of the court. “You are lying.”
Kura continued shouting, even after Christchurch District Court Judge Gary MacAskill told him, “You are not making it any better for yourself.” The woman also continued shouting.
The woman stood up and seemed to try to advance towards the dock, but was prevented by a Court Security officer. She was ushered out, and Judge MacAskill had the jury quickly taken to the jury room while Kura was taken out to the cells, where he could be heard weeping.
Judge MacAskill then had the jury brought back but decided to remand Kura in custody for sentence without him reappearing in court because of his behaviour.
Prosecutor Don Matthews handed Judge MacAskill the print-out of Kura’s criminal record, which included two aggravated injuring convictions from 2008, an aggravated robbery in 2012 which led to him being jailed for two years, and unlawfully carrying a firearm and possession of methamphetamine and amphetamine in 2014. He received an 18 month jail term for those convictions.
Judge MacAskill told the jury: “I’m sorry that happened. It happens too frequently and things are getting worse, from defendants and members of the public. There’s not much we can do.”
He reassured the jurors that protests from the dock had no meaning about whether a defendant was guilty. He also told them: “For what its worth, I agree with your verdict, based on the evidence.”
He remanded Kura for sentence on May 9 and said a sentence of imprisonment was “almost inevitable”, but at the request of defence counsel Andrew McCormick he ordered a home detention assessment as part of the pre-sentence report.
The two-day trial heard that Customs had intercepted a package at the Auckland Mail Centre on August 31, 2016, addressed to Kura at a Parklands address in Christchurch where he had been living until a month before. His family continued living there.
The package contained 27.8g of methamphetamine and had been sent from Mexico.
The defence claimed Kura had been set up by someone, and there was no evidence of any financial transactions or “tick list” records drug deals with customers. Traces of meth were found on digital scales among Kura’s possessions, but he admitted having used the class A drug. The defence said it was implausible that he would have imported the drug under his own name.
The Crown said the large amount of the drug was much more than would have been needed to “set up” Kura, and the jury could conclude that no-one else had imported it. If it had not been intercepted, it would have reached Kura – he had recently visited the address.
Kura did not give evidence but denied the importation in his DVD-recorded interview with Customs officers. He said he was not the importer and knew nothing about it.
The jury was not told until after the trial that a firearm had been found when police and customs searched the property. Before the trial began, Kura pleaded guilty to unlawful possession of the weapon.
Judge MacAskill told the jury he hoped the two-day trial had been “an educational experience.”
“I apologise for the unpleasant end to your experience,” he said.