Joe Tuka was an oil palm worker charged with killing fellow worker Hali Beki, from Morobe.
The court found that Beki’s death arose from a fight between two groups of people at Daliavu Plantation, in the Talasea area of
Tuka was alleged to have killed Beki by punching him in the head during a confrontation between the Tuka and his brother-in-law, and the Beki and his nephews.
The state was of the opinion that Tuka threw the first and lethal punch and that Beki did nothing to warrant being punched and did not respond to Tuka’s blows.
The defence, on the other hand claimed that Tuka, although present at the scene, did not throw any punches and that Beki was punched by the brother-in- law Mark Orio.
Meanwhile, the court, having heard the two arguments in the preliminary assessment, stated: “The medical evidence suggests that the deceased died due to a heavy blow to the head. The state’s evidence which was that the deceased was punched on the nose twice – first by the accused and then by Orio – was consistent with the medical evidence.
The evidence of the defence witnesses – that the deceased was punched in the head by Orio, not by the accused – was also consistent with the medical evidence.
There was no evidence, or suggestion, that the cause of death was anything other than the blow(s) to the head inflicted in the altercation.
“Whoever punched him in the head killed him. The question is: Was it Orio? Tuka? Or both?” Justice David Cannings said.
Cannings, who presided over the case last June 16 and then completing it on Jan 20, with his final decision the next day found Tuka, guilty of manslaughter.
He said: “Making a decision on whether an accused is guilty in a case where diametrically different versions of events are presented is not a simple matter of deciding who to believe.
“The court might tend to believe the version presented by the state witnesses but still find the accused not guilty if it is not convinced beyond reasonable doubt. However, deciding who to believe is a good place to start the decision-making process and, in this case, I believe the state witnesses.”
Cannings added that the defence witnesses “gave inconsistent evidence about whether the Morobeans were armed.
“The contentions that they were armed and that there were six of them are not believable as neither Orio nor Tuka were injured,” he said.