Arguments Commence in New Zealand Spear-Assault Trial

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Let’s stick with New Zealand, as long as it is going to keep generating stories like these.  Last week: false claim of wombat rape. Monday: assault with a deadly hedgehog. Tuesday: opening arguments in the trial, on assault charges, of a man who speared the thief who had broken into his car.

New Zealand sounds interesting enough that I would consider moving there if it weren’t so goddamn dangerous.

Sam Spence is on trial in the High Court at Whangarei, charged with recklessly wounding Daniel Hill last January. The facts: Spence had driven to the coast to go fishing. Hill, who said he had driven there to go swimming along with his friend Justin and (for reasons not explained) a five-year-old boy, broke into Spence’s car and stole his wallet and other items. (Hill told a reporter he had done this to get money to buy meth, but later denied that.) Unfortunately for Hill, someone saw the theft and left a note for Spence with the license number and a description of the thief’s car.

Even more unfortunately for Hill, Spence had been spear-fishing.

Spence apparently got to his car not long after that, saw the note, and set out to find the thief.  Exactly how they encountered each other is not clear, but they did. A chase ensued that sounds like something out of “Mad Max” (if “Mad Max” had involved a climactic car chase between a spear-armed fisherman in a Mitsubishi and a meth addict who had gone swimming with a five-year-old boy). At some point, the cars drew alongside each other, and, according to the prosecutor, “it was during this confrontation that the flounder spear was thrown.”

In what frankly seems like a fairly impressive feat, Spence threw the meter-long flounder spear from one moving car through the open window of another moving car and managed to “embed” it in the skull of the man who had robbed him. (“Man Embedded Flounder Spear in Thief’s Skull, Court Told,” was the headline.) In my experience, once somebody’s got a spear stuck in his head, fight’s over. But amazingly, this did not end the chase. Hill seems to have kept driving at high speed until the car’s engine blew. He testified on Tuesday, in fact, that at the time he did not know he had a spear embedded in his skull.

“I didn’t even really feel it,” he told the jury. “Justin just said, ‘You’ve got an arrow sticking out of your head, bro.'”

Spear_230 When the car broke down, Justin and the mysterious five-year-old fled.  Hill, probably slowed down a bit by the spear, was apprehended and taken to the hospital. He had surgery to repair a skull fracture and was in rehabilitation for over a month, which is serious but seems much less serious than you would expect. I am guessing that while the points of the trident went in deep enough to be “embedded,” they did not actually penetrate Hill’s skull. The extent of the injury was not very clear, although Hill did take the opportunity to blame it for memory loss when he was on the stand Tuesday.

Crown Prosecutor Anna Patterson said that, while she did not condone Hill’s actions, “neither can we condone the actions of the accused, who took the law [and a flounder spear] into his own hands.” She described Hill’s decision to steal as “very unfortunate—not only because it was illegal, but also because of the physical consequences.” Lesson learned: never steal from a guy with a trident.

Not to be outdone in re: stupidity, Spence has already raised a defense that I very much hope to hear more about. According to the report, “Defence lawyer Arthur Fairley said Mr. Spence admitted throwing the spear at Mr. Hill, but denied doing it with reckless disregard for the safety of others.” Is there another way to throw a spear into the passenger compartment of a moving car? Unless he’s claiming he thought Hill was a flounder, I’m not sure where that argument is going.

Link: New Zealand Herald