'No case to answer’ in police shooting, court told
POLICE officer Zach Rolfe was simply doing what he was trained to do when he shot and killed Yuendumu teenager Kumanjayi Walker and the murder case against him should be thrown out, a court has heard.
Rolfe has denied any wrongdoing in fatally shooting the 19-year-old while on duty last year and on Friday, his lawyer David Edwardson QC, urged judge John Birch to rule he had no case to answer.
The submission followed a three-day committal hearing in the Alice Springs Local Court to determine whether prosecutors had gathered enough evidence against Rolfe to send him to his trial.
Mr Edwardson told the court "the law recognises and rightly so, the reality of actions in the agony of the moment" and there was no evidence on which a jury could find his client's actions were unreasonable.
"This is plainly a case of justifiable defensive conduct and no properly instructed jury could exclude this defence," he said.
Mr Edwardson said the scissors Mr Walker was holding at the time and which he used to stab Rolfe had lethal capacity if deployed against a sensitive area such as the carotid artery in the neck.
"Where my client, Zachary Rolfe, was stabbed in the shoulder is only a short distance from his carotid artery - if Kumanjayi Walker had severed his carotid artery, Zachary Rolfe would now be dead," he said.
Mr Edwardson said police were trained to draw their firearm when confronted with an edged weapon and "to fire as many shots as are necessary to stop the threat and to keep firing until the threat has ceased".
"There is not a single piece of evidence that the prosecution have adduced in this case that suggests Zachary Rolfe did anything other than comply wholeheartedly with the very training that NT Police gave him," he said.
Mr Edwardson was critical of evidence led by the prosecution in which body-worn camera footage of the shooting was slowed down saying in real time, Rolfe had no option but to continue to fire his gun after Mr Walker was on the ground.
"The defendant did not have the luxury of considering tactical options frame by frame," he said.
"He had been stabbed, his partner was locked in combat with an armed assailant with a predisposition to violence - he could not press the pause button."
But Crown prosecutor Philip Strickland SC said there was "abundant evidence" from expert witnesses that Rolfe did not comply with his training.
Mr Strickland said the suggestion there was no time for Rolfe to reconsider his options between his first and second shot was "completely contrary" to the experts' opinions that he "failed to consider the other non-lethal options available to him".
"In order to accept my learned friend's submission, your honour would have to find that a jury must reject those expert opinions because both of those experts categorically, unequivocally and despite the skilful cross examination of my learned friend, maintained that there was a critical and material difference between the circumstances facing the accused between the first shot and the second," he said.
Mr Strickland said there was "no doubt" the frame by frame analysis would be admitted before any future jury as it showed more clearly whether Mr Walker's arm was pinned down by the time Rolfe shot him the second time.
Mr Birch will deliver his ruling on October 26.
Originally published as Rolfe 'has no case to answer' in police shooting, court told