A teenager from WA’s Great Southern region, who claimed he acted in self defence when he fatally stabbed his older, taller and stronger brother, has been found not guilty of murder, but guilty of the lesser offence of manslaughter.
- The court heard the pair spent the day drinking before an altercation erupted
- The younger brother’s brain condition could make a blow to the head fatal
- His claim he was protecting himself was “not reasonable” the prosecution said
Sonny Poutu, 19, had been on trial for the past week over the death of his 24-year-old brother, Tamahere Tumai, at a house in Jerramungup on Easter Saturday last year.
The Supreme Court was told the pair had spent the day drinking, and Poutu used a fishing knife to stab his brother in the chest and abdomen after an altercation in which he was punched in the head.
The court heard Poutu suffered from a disease called Moyamoya, which interfered with the blood supply to his brain, and after neurosurgery in 2016 he and his family were told any forceful contact to his head could lead to him having a stroke.
Poutu’s lawyer Jonathan Davies argued his client — who had already been beaten by his brother that day — did what he did to prevent any further blows to his head, which he believed could be fatal for him.
Mr Davies described Mr Tamahere, who was a shearer, as being taller, 30 kilograms heavier than Poutu and experienced in martial arts.
Younger brother ‘reacted out of fear’
He said there had been other fights between the pair in which Poutu had received a “severe beating”, and on the day of the stabbing, he “reacted out of fear without thinking what was going to happen”.
“The act was to prevent another possibly fatal beating,” he said.
However state prosecutor James Nicholls maintained Poutu’s actions were “not reasonable” in the circumstances, and there was no evidence the disease had “interfered with his decision making at the time”.
The jury deliberated for about three hours before delivering its verdicts, acquitting Poutu of murder, but finding him guilty of the lesser offence of unlawful killing.
Chief Justice Peter Quinlan said his preliminary assessment of the jury’s verdict was that it had concluded beyond reasonable doubt, that “the actions of Poutu at the time were not a reasonable response in the circumstances.”
“But that otherwise … he reasonably believed the act was necessary to prevent a threat of harm”.
“It is a case, in essence, of self excessive self defence,” he said.
Chief Justice Quinlan will sentence Poutu, who has been in custody since the stabbing, in October.