Toddler's killer has appeal dismissed

IAN STEWARD
Last updated 15:56 15/08/2014
Popo
MURDERED: Mariam Filihia, 33, killed her neighbour's grandson Terepo "Popo" Taura-Griffiths in November 2011, a week after his first birthday.

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A woman jailed for killing her one-year-old godson has failed in her bid to the Court of Appeal.

Mariam Filihia, 33, was found guilty in August 2013 of the murder of her neighbour's grandson Terepo "Popo" Taura-Griffiths, a week after his first birthday.

She was later sentenced to life imprisonment with a minimum non-parole period of 17 years.

Filihia appealed her sentence and conviction, citing errors by her counsel in dealing with medical evidence.

The Crown case was that Filihia struck Popo's head against a hard, flat surface on the night of November 4 while she gave him a bath.

Frustrated at his crying, she hit the boy's head against a solid surface, probably the side of the cast-iron bath, which led to his death two days later, prosecutors said.

Filihia's trial defence suggested the baby's injuries came about through a series of accidents.

Filihia's appeal lawyer Michele Wilkinson-Smith said the trial lawyers failed to explore a key point - that Popo's breathing difficulties could have arisen from a seizure.

She submitted to Justices Wild, Young and Cooper that failing to address this point had led to a miscarriage of justice for her client.

In their decision released today, the Court of Appeal  panel summarised the point saying: "Counsel for the appellant submitted that trial counsel's strategy did not have an air of reality and was doomed to failure.

As a result, death arising from a seizure was really the only credible defence open."

The Court disagreed and ruled that it was "extremely unlikely a seizure caused Terepo's death".

"Trial counsel made no error in the conduct of the case which resulted in a miscarriage of justice."

The Court dismissed the appeal.

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