Hung jury in manslaughter trial

JULIETTE GERBES: Defending manslaughter charge.
JULIETTE GERBES: Defending manslaughter charge.

The trial of a young woman accused of killing her boyfriend has ended with the jury unable to reach a verdict on a charge of manslaughter.

The trial of Juliette Gerbes, 21, began in the High Court in Napier on Monday. The jury retired at noon yesterday and at shortly before 3pm today informed Justice Denis Clifford they were unable to reach a unanimous or majority decision.

Justice Clifford thanked the jury and acknowledged they had worked hard to try to reach a decision.

Gerbes was remanded on bail pending the Crown's decision on whether it wanted a retrial with a future appearance date to be set.

Earlier today the jury asked to view again a video reconstruction of the moment the victim was killed.

Gerbes was accused of killing Christopher Jones, 22, who died from the stab wounds to his stomach on October 13, 2012.

The court heard the pair had been fighting verbally and physically after they had been drinking at a party the night before.

At home, Jones had tried to initiate sex, but Gerbes said she wasn't in the mood. The couple tussled before Gerbes picked up the knife from the bench.

"I picked it up to scare him, or catch him out on his act, or to shut him up, I don't know, " she said in a police interview.

"I just wanted him to stop and I was scared he was going to keep going."

The knife was the first thing she picked up. If a spoon had been on the bench she would have grabbed that, she said.

But Jones kept standing over her and intimidating her, the court heard. Minutes later he turned white and dropped to the ground. He died from the stab wounds to his stomach on October 13, 2012.

Gerbes maintained that Jones grabbed her during their argument and pulled the blade into himself. "One minute I was holding the knife, next minute it was in him."

She told police they loved each other, but their relationship was full of drama. They had each given the other a black eye during past fights, the court heard.

She got upset when she discovered he had joined a dating website and sent photos of himself to other women. He got angry when she texted other men.

Her parents disapproved of their relationship, as they believed Jones was abusive towards her, the court heard.

Lawyer Eric Forster said while Gerbes was occasionally violent, she would never go to the extreme of stabbing Jones.

Tolerating violence was a bad strategy as it always got worse, Forster said.

"This relationship was always going to end badly."

He said the night of the stabbing was a "highly charged" situation.

Jones was bigger and stronger than Gerbes and could have easily grabbed her wrists to prevent the stabbing, Forster said.

But Jones had no defensive wounds on his hands.

"There were two people applying force to the knife," Forster said.

The only direct evidence of what happened that night was Gerbes' police interviews, where she was open and consistent, Forster said.

There was a great deal of uncertainty about the mechanics of the stabbing which Forster said proved enough reasonable doubt for the jury to find Gerbes not guilty.

The Dominion Post