NSW Supreme Court Justice Peter Johnson
by Mary W Maxwell
There is a calculator for how much of a person’s life could go into a life sentence. Amirah Droudis was 33 when she committed the crime. (I doubt that she did commit it, but am going with the flow here.) She has now been in custody for 2 years. So we look at the Australian Bureau of Statistics projections and see that a woman at 33 has another 48 years coming to her.
The defense barrister, Mark Ierace, pointed out that this could mean she spends 50 years in prison – and asked Is it worth it, for the community’s sake, to incarcerate her that long?
Other factors for sentencing — found in the sentencing for NSW Crimes (Sentencing Procedure) Act 1999 — include consideration of Amirah’s potential for rehabilitation, and the value of deterrence to any other would-be murderer, plus a consideration of the danger to society if she is let out early.
One other factor is whether she has expressed remorse. Justice Peter Johnson said several times that he has no direct evidence of her having expressed remorse – or direct evidence of her having expressed anything. More on that later.
Five new documents came into the courtroom today: a victim impact statement by the mother of the deceased lady; an affidavit affirmed by the now-16-year-old daughter of Amirah (whom I have previously codenamed Sara); a neighbor’s statement to police dated two years ago (when Amirah was arrested for murder); a statement by the prison chaplain, on behalf of Amirah; and a medical report of an injured wrist showing, perhaps, that Monis had committed violence on his partner.
I’d say the judge played it pretty close to the chest as to which way he was going to rule. (I mean on the punishment; he already ruled on her guilt on November 3, 2016.) But at 5 minutes before 5 this afternoon he announced that he is adjourning the matter till February 1, 2017.
The Victim Impact Statement
The mother of the murder victim was in the courtroom today. Her statement was read out by a friend. She spoke of the pain of knowing that her grandsons will never have their Mum attend ceremonies when they win school awards. She said the boys do not sleep well and have nightmares. She did not mention the economic impact on herself but it may be considerable as she now has custody of them (age around 10 and 12, I think).
Medical Report and Neighbor’s Statement
There is an existing record of Amirah visiting the doctor about her left wrist at which an x-ray was taken, and a follow-up visit 3 months later showing that the injury had healed. At the time Amirah told the doctor it was from a fall, but it is common in domestic violence cases for the victim to cover up for the aggressor.
The neighbor’s statement claimed that in the year before the murder she heard Monis and Amirah (or, at least, “a man and woman”) arguing loudly in Monis’s apartment, about twice a week.
This was the surprise of the day. Amirah’s daughter now alleges that ever since Monis moved in with them in 2006, he was abusive of her mother both physically and mentally. I think your first reaction will be: Why is Sara bringing this key point into the story now, as regards possible mitigation of sentence, when she did not bring it in before to assist with the trial theory about Amirah’s enslavement (or whatever you call it) to Monis?
As I reported, Sara was in the witness box circa September 22 (by video link to a room adjoining the courtroom due to her being a minor). She was there mainly to give her mother an alibi. Recall I said that Yaya (Amirah’s mum) and an elderly Greek neighbour also tried to claim that Amirah was in Yaya’s home while the murder was being committed.
I stated at the time that the prosecutor, Mark Tedeschi, made short work of demolishing that alibi. Therefore I smelled a rat as to why the Defense had tied to pull it off. To me, it made the daughter look like a liar.
Anyway, Sara was not in the witness box today. She simply submitted her affidavit. Tedeschi, aka Mr Crown, popped up immediately to remind the judge that if it is evidence, it has to be treated under the Rules of Evidence. The judge said he will enter into email correspondence with Tedeschi about this and also include Ierace (of course).
Support for the Affidavit?
So now you understand why there was the medical statement, showing possible violence by Monis (the wrist injury), and the neighbor’s old statement as to the sound of argument.
It was also mentioned that Police Detective Melanie Staples found, via a listening device in the apartment, that Monis often lectured to both Amirah and Sara as to how they should dress or behave, per the rules of Islam. But only once did she hear a scream (via the Listening Device), apparently from Amirah, followed by a noise that could have been a slap. Melanie interpreted it as “a backhander.”
Needless to say Ms Staples was not cross-examined on this point. I guess it is not too late for cross-examination, however, as the judge asked Mr Crown if he wants to cross-examine Sara about the affidavit – oddly, he said No.
The judge entered into the fray a lot today, for which I was grateful. Mostly he was resisting the Defense’s suggestions as to why the sentence should be a “determinate” one – legalese for “not a lifer.” I’ll list 4 such interventions by the judge.
- Where Mr Crown had emphasized Amirah’s role in planning the events of the day of the murder, Ierace offered a reasonable rebuttal. For example, it was said that she had obtained things needed for the killing about one week in advance – the knife, the petrol, the keys to the apartment.
(Note: as I did not attend in August, I am not sure if the parties agreed that Amirah was supposed to enter Apartment 43 — owned by Monis but with EXwife waiting inside to collect the kids. Per that story, a last-minute hitch caused the murder to take place at the door rather than inside the door.)
In any case, the judge said – contra Mr Crown – that if Monis was the mastermind, the obtaining of a key does not indicate planning on the part of “the offender.” Note: today Amirah was no longer referred to as the accused, but always as “the offender.”
- Where Mr Ierace tried to show “per common sense” that now that Amirah has learned at the trial of Monis’s infidelity to her, she will be more ready to disown him and his extreme religious beliefs. The judge came in on that one by saying that Female M had died (of cancer) 11 months before the murder, and Amirah continued to be the most on-site of the females (I don’t think he used the word on-site but that was the gist.
- When Mr Crown stated that the recklessness shown by Amirah in endangering other resident of the burning building, the judge pointed out that that is usually an aggravating factor in arson cases. His Honor said that even though this is not an arson case, the danger to first responders, as well as to other people living in the building, was something he would take into account in sentencing.
- Where Mr Ierace tried to use Sara’s affidavit to buttress the idea that Amirah was like a battered wife (he did not use that exact word), the judge said a court often heard such a thing in the voice of the offender through a statement made to a psychiatrist, but here, said Justice Johnson, we have nothing to go on by way of direct statement from Amirah that she was abused. His Honor metaphorically threw up his hands. I don’t blame him. This is all so peculiar. There sat the offender, right in front of him, but she had never made the claim of abuse through her solicitor.
See you on February 1st.
— Mary W Maxwell is author of Fraud Upon the Court
Photo credit -- cdn.newsapi.com.