Court told of violent prison attack

05:05, Nov 10 2009

Prisoner Graeme Burton stuffed magazines down his jersey to protect himself before chasing down a known gang member and stabbing him in the heart, a court has been told.

Burton, 38, is charged with attempting to murder fellow maximum-security inmate Dwayne Marsh on December 20 last year at Auckland Prison in Paremoremo.

Burton, who was surrounded by four security guards during proceedings at the High Court in Auckland, denies attempting to murder Marsh.

Court suppression orders forbid from discussing Burton's history or explaining why he is in prison.

In her closing address Crown prosecutor Deb Bell told the jury they must decide whether Burton had stabbed Marsh and if he had intended to kill him.

The court heard yesterday that the stabbing took place when Burton, Marsh and four other high-security prisoners were allowed time outside their cells.

Ms Bell said Burton entered Marsh's cell with a weapon in each hand.

He had magazines and papers shoved down his jersey to protect himself, Ms Bell said.

Marsh backed out of his cell and Burton, hobbling on a prosthetic leg, then pursued a fleeing Marsh up and down a jail corridor at least four times.

He eventually caught him, stabbing him in the chest and leg, the court was told. One of the weapons was a 31-centimetre metal rod believed to have been taken from a medical trolley and sharpened to a point.

Marsh tried to defend himself from the blows with a mop he found in the jail corridor.

Ms Bell said the Crown had proved that Burton intended to murder Marsh.

"Why else would you stab someone three times to the chest if you did not intend to kill them?"

"There can be no doubt the accused intended to kill Mr Marsh that day."

Burton's lawyer Peter Tomlinson said the jury had received a "not very nice introduction to life in prison".

Locked in a cell 22 hours a day and living in such restrictive circumstances it was "no wonder" there were arguments and violent confrontations in prison, Mr Tomlinson said.

"It is clear he [Burton] was determined, he was forceful and he assaulted Mr Marsh."

But that did not mean Burton had tried to murder Marsh, Mr Tomlinson said.

"It has to be proven beyond reasonable doubt that Mr Burton had intended to kill, if that can not be proven then the jury must acquit," Mr Tomlinson told the court.

The jury must put aside any preconceived ideas they held about the accused.

"Mr Burton is a prison inmate, he has a past, some of you will know of that past, some of you will have a reaction to that past but in this trial it is completely irrelevant. You must put any such views aside."

Yesterday the court heard from several witnesses to the attack.

Corrections staff officer Merv Van Piere told the court he had pulled a bloodied and shaking Marsh from the cell block.

"I saw Burton and he had something in both hands and he was waving them about and, from what was going on, I could tell Marsh was losing," he told the court.

Corrections officer Ronald Bruce took Marsh - who was bleeding from the chest, hands and leg - to the prison infirmary.

"We sat him on to the bed and all of a sudden he went a bit grey and his eyes rolled back in his head and then he fell off the bed and I caught him."

Marsh had three deep chest wounds and was taken to North Shore Hospital for emergency surgery.

Both Marsh and Burton refused to co-operate with the police inquiry into the attack.

The door to the dock was left open throughout the court's morning session so Burton could rest his prosthetic leg on a chair.

The judge will sum up the case tomorrow.



The Dominion Post