The Crown admitted that a key witness statement in the case was doctored
The 1986 murder conviction of Alan Hall is set to be overturned after 36 years following the admission of Crown prosecutors that a key witness statement in the case was deliberately altered.
In an 8 April submission for Hall’s latest appeal, Crown Law confessed to “a substantial miscarriage of justice” when it confirmed that information favourable to Hall’s case was intentionally removed from the statement of eyewitness Ronald Turner, Stuff NZ reported.
Hall, who was released on parole in March, was initially convicted in the fatal stabbing of 52-year-old Arthur Easton at the latter’s Papakura home in October 1985. Hall, who was 23 years old at the time, became the prime suspect in the case after admitting to owning a bayonet and woollen hat matching those found at the crime scene. His family, however, maintained the items were stolen from Hall prior to Easton’s murder.
According to Stuff, eyewitnesses had described the attacker as a “powerfully built, right-handed Māori man”. Turner’s written statement, which was among the most critical in the case, indicated that the man he witnessed near Easton’s house at the time of the crime was dark-skinned. By contrast, Hall has a slight build, is left-handed and is Pākehā.
Prosecutors did not call Turner to give his evidence at the 1986 trial on the case, and when his testimony was read in court, all mentions of Easton’s attacker being Māori had been removed from his statement. Turner was not advised or consulted on the alteration; moreover, the judge, jury and defence counsel were unaware of this aspect of Turner’s testimony.
The Crown’s submission accepted that “a misleading version of Mr Turner’s statement was read to the jury, and that this was to the prosecution’s advantage and to the detriment of [Hall’s] defence.” The Crown described the manipulation of the evidence as “incontrovertible” and “unassailable”, and stated that the act “cast a long shadow” over the case.
Crown Law said that it would not seek for Hall to undergo retrial.
“The Crown is unable to resist the dual propositions that justice miscarried in this case, and Mr Hall’s conviction should be quashed,” Crown Law told the Supreme Court.
Following another hearing scheduled for 8 June, Hall, who is now 60, is expected to be formally acquitted. Diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder, he spent nearly 19 years in prison after his conviction.
Nonetheless, he continually maintained his innocence and repeatedly appealed his case. In a statement published by Stuff, he said that “this will be over when the police and officers who did this get punished, get arrested, go to court, and news media report on this and the public will hear about it.”
“What [the Crown] are talking about has been known for 30 years. All the information that could have quashed Alan’s conviction was sitting in the Crown files and police files, and no one would look at it in this way,” Hall’s brother Geoff said in a statement published by Stuff.
Easton’s oldest son and family spokesperson Chris Easton confirmed that the victim’s family was informed of the new developments in the case.
“The Crown’s position has changed significantly as more information has come to light over the past 36 years. It would appear the submissions also indicate evolution of the justice system and investigative standards over the time. As the victims of this crime, the family has placed its trust in the New Zealand justice system, and trusts that it will reinvestigate to ensure justice for all parties involved,” Chris Easton said in a statement published by Stuff.
A full review of the murder investigation has been initiated by police, which may involve “further forensic testing where appropriate,” Detective Superintendent Dave Lynch said in a statement published by Stuff. However, the police have not commented on whether the case will be reopened.