A manslaughter trial in the High Court in Invercargill has been aborted today because of the possibility a juror spoke to people connected with the case.
Teenager Strathan Hurst was on trial after pleading not guilty to a charge of manslaughter and an alternative charge of reckless driving causing death.
The trial began yesterday and was scheduled to continue today. However, Justice John Fogarty told the 12 jury members today that he was stopping the trial.
He then explained why.
''There's a possibility that one of the members of the jury has spoken to persons who are connected through social contacts with the two sides of the families in this case.''
He stressed it was just a possibility, and he did not know any names, but said it presented a risk.
It was vital trials were conducted without such risks, he said.
Both the Crown and defence lawyers had agreed there was no longer an assurance of a safe and just trial.
''So we have no option but to bring the trial to an end,'' Justice Fogarty said.
A new trial would take place at another time, he said.
Yesterday, Crown lawyer Riki Donnelly said in November 2011, Hurst, then 17, was above the legal alcohol limit and speeding in a 50kmh zone in Winton when he crashed his car causing the death of front seat passenger Stevie-Owen Kenneally, 18.
However, defence lawyer John Westgate said the Crown case fell well short of proving that Hurst was driving the car at the time of the crash.
- The Southland Times