The High Court has quashed the murder conviction and ordered a retrial in the case of Arona Peniamina who was found guilty of brutally killing his wife Sandra.
The High Court has quashed the murder conviction and ordered a retrial in the case of Arona Peniamina who was found guilty of brutally killing his wife Sandra.

Man who allegedly bludgeoned his wife to death wins retrial

The High Court has quashed the murder conviction and ordered a retrial in the case of Arona Peniamina who was found guilty of brutally killing his wife Sandra in 2016.

Three of five High Court judges found in favour of Peniamina's argument that the jury in his Supreme Court trial had not been properly instructed about how it should consider the defence of provocation.

Peniamina was sentenced to life in prison in November 2018 after a jury convicted him of the murder of the 38-year-old mother of four.

Sandra Peniamina died in the driveway of her Kippa-Ring home after being she was allegedly repeatedly stabbed and hit in the head with a fence bollard.

Peniamina confessed to the killing by pleading guilty to manslaughter at the start of his trial but his plea was not accepted.

The majority decision handed down by the High Court today was held up by Justices Virginia Bell, Stephen Gageler and Michelle Gordon.

Justices Patrick Keane and James Edelman took an opposing view that the appeal should be dismissed.

Arona Peniamina.
Arona Peniamina.

"The appellant killed his wife with sustained ferocity in circumstances in which it was open to find that he was angered by a belief that she had been unfaithful to him and that she may have been planning to leave him and take their four children with her," the majority wrote in their judgment.

"In conversations with police the appellant said that during an argument the deceased threatened him with a knife and, in trying to disarm her, he sustained a deep cut to his hand …"

"The appellant's case was that he lost control because of the conduct with the knife."

The jury was directed that in order to rely on provocation, Peniamina had to prove, on the balance of probabilities, three elements including that he killed his wife while in a state of temporary loss of self-control induced by her conduct with the knife.

The second element was a finding that an ordinary person in his position might have been induced to so lose self-control as to form, and act upon, an intention to kill or do grievous bodily harm.

Sandra Peniamina
Sandra Peniamina

The third element was a finding that Peniamina's loss of self-control was not based on anything done, or believed to have been done, by the deceased to change the relationship.

The majority of the High Court found the law requires an accused person to nominate something done, or believed to have been done, by the deceased and secondly to prove not only that the killing was done in a state of loss of self-control but that the state was induced by the nominated conduct. "Leaving aside extreme and exceptional circumstances, whether (the legislation) excludes the defence is a question of law requiring consideration only of whether the nominated conduct was something done to change the relationship," the judgment said.

"Here, it was fanciful to suggest that the conduct with the knife was itself such an act and the trial judge was wrong to direct the jury that the appellant was required to prove the.. (third element required by the jury that his loss of control was no based on anything done by the victim to change the relationship).

The appeal was allowed and a new trial ordered.

Originally published as Man who bludgeoned, stabbed wife to death wins retrial


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