A few initial thoughts on what comes next after the not guilty verdict in the Scott Guy murder case

So Ewen Macdonald is found not guilty. That will surprise a lot of punters, I suspect, but not a lot of lawyers or journalists. Early confidence in a guilty verdict has ebbed throughout the case as the evidence has looked weak and Greg King's attacks strong. And within an hour of the verdict, the mood is turning.

After 13 hours the jury decided that there was insufficient evidence to convict Macdonald of his brother-in-law Scott Guy's murder. Whether they believe him innocent or simply that the Crown failed to make the case, we'll never know.

Guy's father Bryan gave an incredibly composed and impressive statement on behalf of the family and elft us all with the one central question:

Who is responsible for the death of our son?

From a media point of view, that's the next big question before the weekend's big wrap up pieces. Many will think Mcdonald has gotten away with it, but the family didn't go there, which is interesting.

What do they think as to who did it? We don't know, but that question suggests they're at least not convinced of Macdonald's guilt.

Their silence on that issue is dignified, but mightn't we wish for more transparency? Perhaps it's too early. But the silence now only adds to the value of that first interview later, be it in terms of magazine money paid to the women involved or in ratings for the news programmes that gets them on screen.

And have no doubt, it's the women - Anna Macdonald in particular as of this afternoon - who have the most value to media from here. The competition will be intense - but in most cases respectful.

The family have asked for privacy; I'm curious as to whether they're serious about that and how long they'll wait to speak. Many conversations have already been had.

Another question is what becomes of Ewen Macdonald. You'd think he doesn't have much of a future in this country upon his release, given the court of public opinion.

This also puts the onus back on police and their response. Do they re-open their inquiries or do they release a statement that they have taken it as far as they can, insinuating they think the jury got it wrong?

Either way, it's another epic fail for the New Zealand Police. They thought the evidence pointed to Mcdonald, but couldn't prove it. How often do they fail in the big cases? From Thomas through Kahui and Bain to Gwaze, the Urewera Four and Kim Dotcom... well.

Already the fingers are being pointed their direction, with Scott Yorke the first off the blocks to say:

Some people will say the system has failed the Guy family, but those people should not blame the court system. They ought to blame the police and Crown for bringing a case that was always going to end in an acquittal and more pain for the Guy family.

I'm sure there will be others.The other point to note is that Greg King's stakes have just gone through the roof. He'll be the second happiest man in New Zealand right now.

Comments (8)

by Tim Watkin on July 03, 2012
Tim Watkin

And now the police have spoken - "Throughout this inquiry Police have thoroughly investigated and assessed all information provided to them, should anything new come to light it will be investigated with the same vigour, however we are not currently pursuing anyone else or any other lines of enquiry."

That's a 'we still think he did it', then.


by Matthew Percival on July 03, 2012
Matthew Percival

"After 13 hours the jury decided that there was sufficient evidence to convict Macdonald of his brother-in-law Scott Guy's murder."

I think you need to replace sufficient with insufficient

Anyway on to the case. Around the water cooler we had concluded that there was going to be a not-guilty verdict. I don't think the verdict will come as a surprise to those who followed the case closely. There didn't appear to be much evidence aside from circumstantial evidence.

I also think you are being a little harsh on the New Zealand Police. The big cases are often the most complex and the most difficult to prove. It would be interesting to look at convictions in other justice systems as a comparison. O.J Simpson springs to mind as a similar overseas case to the ones you mention where there was no conviction.

As in this instance the Police have a choice. Either let a case drift off without any closure for those affected or try to bring some closure (to their own enquires as much as the family) by taking the accused to court.

by Tim Watkin on July 03, 2012
Tim Watkin

Limited evidence, true Matthew. It was interesting the judge stressed that mere circumstantial evidence wasn't uncommon; many murders are unwitnessed. I wondered whether that may nudge the jury the other direction.

Maybe harsh... and it did occur to me later that the other party in this are the proseution. I'm not close enough to see where the gaps are, but most organisations are judged by the big ones. There is much, of course, that the police do very well day-to-day. But that's not a record the top brass would feel comfortable, is it?

by mudfish on July 03, 2012

Ditto Matthew re police - the "big cases" are the ones the media pick up on and turn into big stories, I guess cos there's drama involved. And often limited, circumstantial evidence.

Jail's full of people where they have done their job (as best can be judged).

by Tim Watkin on July 04, 2012
Tim Watkin

Can I just add that this idea of a Shakespearian metaphor doesn't work? In as far as it goes, you can paint the picture of a divided family struggling internally over inheritance. But it quickly dissolves. If it's Shakespearian, then what, Bryan Guy is a Lear-like figure, getting it all wrong and going mad in the process? And if his "flaw of fairness" lef to a tragic death, then that points the finger at Mcdonald after all. If Guy was killed by some other gun and some other man, which the verdict leaves as an entirely possible scenario, then the family disputes had nothing to do with it.

It might sound clever, but the internal logic doesn't hold.


by Bruce Thorpe on July 05, 2012
Bruce Thorpe

Not so much Shakespearean as Biblical perhaps.

I am not going back to that volume but simply recall the old Sunday School stories of the Prodigal Son , Cain and Abel.

And like those Golden Book tales, there are  authoritiarian male figures and disputed codes of inheritance, and almost for illustration purposes, passive but comely women, often conveniently one blonde and one brunette. 

As a grandfather, I have identified in the older generation players in this  tragedy.

Very much not impressed by the senior Guy's failure to front up about the shotgun being accessible to all, and in fact to mislead the police untilafter the arrest.

Absolutely intrigued by the senior MacDonalds, who clearly have the classic good son and bad son.

One, a cleancut and worthy policeman and the other apparently as worthy, but also a  marauder by night, poacher and arsonist and suspected of much worse.

It is this pair of grandparents who have my respect. The mother not dodging her discomforting memory of a possibly damning dive boot. The father questioning his son about the poaching, setting the police on the trail by directly linking the arson/damage and the murder. 

by Quentin on July 05, 2012

I don't see why Greg King is necessarily the 'second happiest man' in the world right now.

In fact I'd go so far as to say that your implication that Ewen MacDonald is the happiest man right now is also flawed. If in fact he murdered Scott guy, being acquitted of his murder will only actually make him ultimately much more unappy than if he owned up to it, because if he has any sort of conscience, as we all do, it would be already starting to eat him up.

Similarly, it is very possible that Greg King is also unhappy with the outcome. Just because you're a defence lawyer doesn't mean that you necessarily actually think your client is not guilty. You've simply been hired to put forward that case, just like in a debate where you don't necessarily agree with te case that you're putting forward.

My view is that Ewen MacDonald and Greg King are probably two of the most deeply unhappy people around at the moment

by Quentin on July 09, 2012

I couldn't disagree more with your perspective that the Guy family aren't convinced of MacDonald's guilt.

The words 'Who is responsible for the death of our son' is different than saying 'We still don't know who killed our son'.

To me, the choice of words says that they are sure of who the murderer is, but that the murderer has simply not been brought to justice as they should be, leaving nobody responsible for the death

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