McMurdo: drinking culture leaves community 'diminished'
THE president of the state's highest court has lamented the devastating consequences of our youth drinking culture as she dismissed an appeal against a murder conviction.
"This is yet another tragic case where one drunken young man has killed another drunken young man in an episode of alcohol-infused violence," Queensland Court of Appeal Justice Margaret McMurdo said.
"Cleveland Clay is dead. Simeon Blair is serving a life sentence for his murder. The families of both young men are devastated. And the community has been diminished by this needless violence and its consequences."
Simeon Frederick George Blair was sentenced to life imprisonment after an 11-day trial last year for murdering Mr Clay near a Maryborough hotel on May 1, 2012.
He had been drinking home-brew bourbon and coke as well as beer and wine. Both men had been drinking that night. They had met only a few days before.
Highlighting the futile nature of the violence, Justice McMurdo noted Blair's phone call to an aunt saying "If I knew he was a Clay I would've brung him back home (to) drink with me..."
Blair also told his parents in the watchhouse "It was just supposed to be a fight" and gave evidence at trial he was not aiming anywhere when hitting Mr Clay.
"This suggested he was engaged in an intoxicated fight with no purpose other than to win," Ms McMurdo said.
Blair argued in the appeal court that it was unreasonable for the jury to have concluded he struck Mr Clay intending to kill him or do grievous bodily harm.
But Ms McMurdo, one of three appeal court justices to assess the case, said the jury was entitled to conclude Blair intended to cause Mr Clay's life-threatening injuries "to win the fight".
"The only rational inference was that the fatal injuries were caused by (Blair's) brutal attack with a large piece of wood in a gross over-reaction to the deceased's aggressive behaviour," the judgment read.
"On (Blair's) own account he wanted to fight the deceased and hit him as hard as he could three times with the piece of wood.
"The forensic evidence of the blood splashes allowed the jury to conclude (Blair) forcefully assaulted the deceased at least once whilst the deceased was on the ground.
"The degree of force necessary to cause the deceased's skull fractures depicted in the copies of the CT scan was severe.
"There was no doubt that the skull fractures and resulting brain hemorrhages were the cause of death."
Mr Blair also argued his torrent of swearing while in the witness box, which resulted in a reprimand from the trial judge, should have led to the jury being discharged.
The trial judge interrupted when Blair responded to a prosecutor question with "f*** you c***",
He later directed the jury not to think ill of Blair because the accused was under a lot of pressure and had limited education.
Blair thought the judge's reprimand should not have taken place in front of the jury and feared the jury would not be able to put his foul language aside.
But Justice McMurdo said it was appropriate to admonish the disrespectful and insulting behaviour towards the prosecutor and there was no evidence the jury disregarded directions to ignore the poor behaviour.
- APN NEWSDESK