Fatal police-pursuit crash: Defendant declines to testify, call witnesses

A man accused of killing a cyclist in a West Auckland hit-and-run crash as he allegedly fled police in a stolen station wagon has declined to call any witnesses or to testify on his own behalf, bringing a sudden end to the evidence phase of his trial.

One half of the courtroom at the Auckland District Court was crowded for a fourth consecutive day with family and friends of Jamie Jameson, a father and husband who was 39 years old in December 2019 when he died of traumatic brain injuries, about one week after the November 25 crash.

But the group was only in the courtroom for about 15 minutes on Thursday after the defendant declined to present evidence in the judge-alone trial, and Judge Anna Skellern said she didn’t need to hear closing addresses. They will have to wait until next Thursday to learn her decisions regarding the four charges: failure to stop for police, failure to stop or ascertain injury after Jameson was hit, receiving stolen property over $1000 and recklessly causing the cyclist’s death.

The 27-year-old defendant, who has name suppression, was remanded to custody to await the decision.

Earlier in the week, prosecutors Sam McMullan and Dan McGivern called to the witness stand or read statements from multiple bystanders, motorists and police officers who described odd behaviour by a man matching the defendant’s general description on the day of the crash.

Police said they had already been trying to locate the defendant on an unrelated matter that evening when a burgundy Subaru station wagon at a Massey home they were watching sped off through the residential neighbourhood at speeds of up to 90km/h — sometimes on the wrong side of the road.

As the vehicle crossed over an island and onto the other side of the road while turning onto Don Buck Rd, Jameson was hit. Two officers who were following the vehicle stopped to help the unconscious cyclist. The defendant, however, was arrested a short time later walking in a nearby neighbourhood after several bystanders called police to report odd behaviour.

The witness descriptions included a man sticking his head out of the car’s side window, his scarf flapping in the wind despite the warm weather as he drove erratically with a damaged windscreen. Others noted the car speeding down the driveway of a nearby home before the driver attempted to hide it under blankets. The detective in charge of the investigation described the man after his arrest as being “in an extremely agitated state”, as if under the influence of drugs or suffering from mental health issues.

Prosecutors also introduced fingerprint, DNA and glass shard analysis evidence that they said connected the defendant to the stolen car.

The defendant opted to represent himself at trial, but he declined to question a single witness. He did allow Todd Simmonds, who was recently appointed to serve as his stand-by lawyer, to briefly question one witness over her recollection of the driver’s skin tone.

The defendant’s two quiet, almost mumbled statements on Thursday — “Yes judge, I do not wish to give evidence,” and, “Yes judge, I do not want to call evidence” — were the most he said during the trial.

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