Killer Clowns lose appeal bid
The Killer Clown Fiends behind the cold-blooded execution of a drug dealer have failed in a bid to have their murder convictions overturned.
Dean Browne, 38, was repeatedly hit with a hammer while he slept at an Oriental Bay house on January 21, 2010, after an alleged falling-out over drugs.
After he was fatally injured he was injected with morphine, and the Crown said he was already dead when he was put into the boot of a car and his body driven to New Plymouth, where it was left in a garage and discovered the next day.
Aucklanders Mikhail Rafael Pandey-Johnson and Karl Teangiotau Nuku were found guilty of his murder, Nuku for wielding the hammer and Pandey-Johnson for encouraging him, although he was not present at the time.
A third man, Rhys Fournier, was acquitted. All three men were members of a gang called the Killer Clown Fiends.
Pandey-Johnson and Nuku appealed their convictions and sentences earlier this year.
A Court of Appeal decision released today dismissed their challenge.
The pairs' lawyers had said the order that the pair serve at least 18 years of a life sentence should be reduced, but the Crown said the attack on Mr Browne had been planned and it was hard to imagine a more cold-blooded execution.
Much of the appeal was about the role of the woman - known as Witness 29 because her name was suppressed - who injected Mr Browne with morphine, and whether the morphine could be excluded as having killed Mr Browne.
Pandey-Johnson and Nuku argued her evidence should have been ruled inadmissable and lead to a miscarriage of justice.
The Crown said the jury saw Witness 29 give evidence over the course of a week during the trial and considered her evidence critically. It looked for support for her story from scientific and other evidence and when support was absent it rejected her evidence.