Friend of the Friendless: A reminder of the price Greg King paid

TVNZ
Friend of the Friendless screens on TVNZ1 at 8pm on Thursday, October 15.

REVIEW: The 2012 trial of Ewen Macdonald for the murder of Scott Guy was a perfect storm of sensational media coverage playing out a storyline that would do any Hollywood blockbuster proud.

Scott Guy was handsome, successful, a devoted husband and father, and a popular figure in the rural community he farmed in. Ewen had married Scott's sister.

The brothers in law had fallen out in the past over who would inherit the farm and over who was or wasn't pulling their weight in their business partnership.

When Guy's body was found, early one morning in July 2010, the police investigation appeared to take an early interest in Macdonald.

Lawyer Greg King, who defended Ewen Macdonald and worked on Scott Watson’s appeal, is the subject of a new TVNZ documentary, Friend of the Friendless.
Craig Simcox/Stuff
Lawyer Greg King, who defended Ewen Macdonald and worked on Scott Watson’s appeal, is the subject of a new TVNZ documentary, Friend of the Friendless.

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Ewen Macdonald was found not guilty of Scott Guy’s murder in 2012.
TVNZ
Ewen Macdonald was found not guilty of Scott Guy’s murder in 2012.

The Crown's case was that motive, means and Macdonald's character all added up to proof of his guilt. It was a narrative that played well in the media too. There can't have been many people following the case in the newspapers who weren't already convinced that a guilty verdict was inevitable.

What we didn't know was that behind the scenes, one of New Zealand's finest legal minds had been diligently disassembling the Crown's arguments and had found them wanting. The documentary Friend of the Friendless (TVNZ 1, October 15 at 8pm and TVNZ OnDemand) is an overdue, but exceptionally well done, look at the trial, and at the storied life of defence lawyer Greg King.

King was already as well known as any lawyer in the country for his work on the Scott Watson appeal. But his team's defence of Ewen Macdonald would make him a household name.

Over four weeks in 2012, King and his small team demolished the motive, proved that Macdonald hadn't been the man who had left distinctive boot prints at the crime scene, thrown enormous doubt on the police timeline of events and generally raised enough questions about the case that the jury needed less than one day to decide that Macdonald was innocent and – presumably – that Guy's killer was still walking free.

Friend of the Friendless makes a strong argument that the police were far too focused on Macdonald from the start, when there was at least one other strong contender for the role of “prime suspect”.

This is a rigorous and fascinating look at a case that can still divide a room eight years after the verdict was delivered. But Friend of the Friendless is more than that. When Greg King died, shortly after the case ended, it added a tragic coda to a story that had enthralled the country for two years.

Director Yvonne McKay and writer Dave Armstrong have assembled a terrific reminder of who King was and of the price he paid.

Netflix
I'm No Longer Here is now streaming on Netflix.

Elsewhere, a friend of mine who knows more about good film making than most of us recently pointed me at an unremarked gem on Netflix.

I'm No Longer Here is a Mexican/North American co-production set in Monterrey, Mexico and Queens in New York City.

The film follows a young dancer, already quite brilliant at moving to the rhythms of Central America's Cumbia music, as he is forced to flee to New York after accidentally offending a local gang leader.

What follows is a lightly told drama of dislocation and discovery, played out against a backdrop of music, dance, young love and community. I'm No Longer Here is a gentle triumph. Have a look.

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