More Murris in Jail — killer cop runs free

Mulrunji’s killing by Queensland police officer Chris Hurley rates only a footnote in the annals of justice.

Footnote number seven (7) in the twenty (20) page judgement of the Court of Appeal reads:

Inquest into the death of Mulrunji, Coroner’s Court, Cor 2857/04(9), 27 September 2006, Clements M (Acting State Coroner).

On 8th December 2006 the Court of Appeal increased the jail terms already served by three Palm Islanders and issued warrants for their arrest.

In his judgement, the Chief Justice De Jersey of Supreme Court said the following:

I first provide a summary of what occurred.

An Aboriginal man died on 19 November 2004 while in police custody on Palm Island. Over the following week, with increasing tension within the Palm Island community, the police presence there was increased. The riot on 26 November followed a community meeting, attended by up to 300 persons, at which some details from an autopsy report were publicly disclosed by Ms Kyle, the Council chairperson.

They included the assertion the death was caused by an accidental fall.

Dissatisfied with the disclosure, the crowd became very angry. Some suspected a police officer was responsible for the death.

Nowhere in the judgement did the Chief Justice mention the ‘suspicion’ by Palm Islanders was true.

Two years later the ‘suspicion‘ was backed up by the coroner’s finding that Snr Sgt Hurley killed Mulrunji Doomadgee in the police watch house on Palm Island on 19 November 2004.

Nor did the appeal court judge who supported the Chief Justice’s finding make any comment about the coroner’s finding.

It was left to the dissenting judge to place the small footnote in his judgment alluding to but not actually stating that the coroner had found that Mulrunji was killed by Hurley.

How did this come about?

Ted Reithmuller Collection

While Premier Peater Beattie stood at the gates of parliament accepting a petition of 1160 people from Alec Domadgee for Snr Sgt Hurley to be charged his Attorney General was insisting Palm Island residents should be jailed for longer terms than had already been served.

At the gates of parliament the Premier made no mention of the systematic whitewash being performed by the Queensland Chief Justice.

Instead what Peter Beattie said was:

“Many people said at the beginning (when Mulrunji died) that there would not be due process…I said at the time that the coroner would go through due process and the matter would be followed appropriately and that’s what has happened.”

But the coroner has made her findings.

The Chief Justice has duly refused to take those findings into account in the sentencing of Palm Islanders.

More Murris in jail while Hurley runs free on full pay.

Labor’s reform of the Justice System
So, post-Fitzgerald, Labor governments have opened up the magistrate courts so that people like Coroner Clements is prepared to criticise the police.

But how does that change anything?

Particularly when the Supreme Court of Queensland is stacked with cold hearted conservatives who will not recognise a finding of fact when it is staring them in the face. Nothing has changed from the Joh years, the conservatives still retain power in key positions.

How many years do we have to wait for justice, Mr Beattie, while you are cutting trade deals over aboriginal land with multinational mining companies?

Please sign Mulrunji Letter Click here

Ian Curr
9 December 2006

3 thoughts on “More Murris in Jail — killer cop runs free

  1. One of the leaders on Palm Island, Lex Wotton, stands trial early next year for riot and arson yet Mulrunji’s killer walks free.

    How can Lex Wotton get a fair trial in Brisbane?

    The Chief Justice De Jersey has clearly already made up his mind about Lex Wotton.

    If you read the Chief Justice’s recent judgment (attached) you will see the following prejudiced findings of fact by the Chief Justice against Lex Wotton:

    • “One Wotton led the crowd from the meeting place over a distance of approximately 80 metres to the police station… “

    • “Wotton smashed windows and security grilles… “

    • “Wotton threatened the police that unless they left the island within the hour, they would be killed…”

    • “She was present as part of that crowd while Wotton was threatening to burn the police station and kill the police officers…

    • He was therefore party to the wilful damage wrought by Wotton and others on the police station, and actively participated in the riot, although he was not observed himself throwing rocks or heard making threats…”

    • “Wotton called to police: “We’ve burnt your station, your barracks are next, get off the island.”

    If convicted, there may be another appeal which will go to the Court of Appeal where the Chief Justice holds sway.

    Lex Wotton will be jailed for a very long time if the Chief Justice has anything to say about it.

    Australians accept two things:

    1. The master/servant relationship still exists. The boss has control of workers.

    2. Our current economic growth depends on the continued exploitation of aboriginal land largely by mining companies.

    Only the Left oppose this and our impact is minor.

  2. The left has been largely disconnected from Aboriginal agendas since the bicentenial protests in 1988

    Since then the reconciliation agenda has come and gone as a manifestation of mainly non aboriginal activity and notions

    Camp Soveregnty in Melbourne and Sam Watson’s activism with the Brisbane left have recreated local connections (and probably many other places I don’t know about)

    The connection is not ideological such as the confluence of agendas between traditional owners and nationalist anti-capitalists over multinational mining

    The connection is better described as solidarity or community as there are many different cultures and consciousness’s involved which may or may not coincide ideologically

    The connection is of the heart and not the head

    When solidarity is shown to striking workers and their families it is not (just) based on an academic or ideological identification with the class struggle

    It is based on empathy identification and the sharing of the pain of the situation

    It is the common experience of workers that lays the foundation for worker solidarity – globally or at the workplace

    It is the lack of common experience between the left and Aboriginal society that is the barrier to solidarity which is the barrier to the left taking Aboriginal struggle seriously which is why our impact has been so minor on Aboriginal struggles – especially compared to gains such as equal opportunity for women and environmental issues

    In the old days even the ALP had a strong Aboriginal membership and networks which drove much of the work the ALP did in opposition to old Joh

    But now from Peter Beattie down to grass-roots left activists the broad church has reduced Aboriginal issues to sloganistic dot points in propaganda and policy generated wholly within non-Aboriginal discourse and consciousness

    I believe most Australians have felt pain in their hearts when learning the details of the Palm Island watchhouse death or of the stories of stolen wages stolen children and the mission system

    This common human experience of pain needs to connect in real terms – organisationally – to Aboriginal Australia but not (just) to reinforce left agendas but to reinforce Aboriginal agendas on their own cultural and ideological frameworks

    This is an essay I wrote which includes a critique of Australian socialism as a colonial paradigm

  3. ps
    What do I mean?

    for example

    Bejam Denis Walker at the recent Deaths in custody rally called for community patrols to police the police as a strategy to reduce deaths in custody instead of appealing to the perpetrators for mercy

    Left activists could also participate such a venture by accompanying community patrols as witnesess as well of course fundraising as state funding would be unlikely (despite being reccomended in Mulrunji coroners report)

    Just a hypothetical suggestion of the sort of things left activists could do to build organisational links with Aboriginal Australia beyond our normal campaigning modes

    Such activity would also contribute significantly to our normal campaign modes including building a national campaign around about Aboriginal deaths in custody

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