The Tostee verdict

I’m not surprised that was not convicted of murder. It was always going to be hard for a jury to consider that he was responsible for her death beyond reasonable doubt.

Let me start by saying that Tostee seems a pretty reprehensible human being. His general attitude towards women is appalling and his behaviour after her death even more so. He was focused on himself, not on her.

Also that while he may not have been legally responsible for her death, his actions were substandard, to put it mildly. If he has tried to calm her down, or evicted her into the foyer instead of the balcony, then she may be alive.

And it is tragic for Warriena Wright that she is dead, and awful for her family and friends.

However the evidence, primarily the audio recording, did not clearly establish the prosecution’s case beyond reasonable doubt. Was she trying to climb down the balcony because of a genuine fear that Tostee was going to harm her, or was it a decision affected by alcohol?

The verdict was determined by the jury who heard all the facts. But I do recall an experience that reminded me of how alcohol can affect you ability to assess risks.

In the mid 1990s I was at a political conference in Hobart. One of our party got rather wasted. So we took him home to the hotel and put him in his room. He insisted he wanted to carry on partying, so we locked him inside his room to try and keep him safe. We went outside and started walking away. Then someone spotted him walking along a very narrow ledge from his room’s window, to the one next door. As this was not a ground floor room, we were aghast and terrified he would fall. Somehow he still had enough balance and made it.

Now as I said that Tostee verdict was on the facts of this particular case and my experiences don’t impact whether or not the jury made the right call. But it does illuminate that people do make bad choices under the influence of alcohol.

Of course this is why Tostee holds moral culpability for what happened. If someone is drunk and possibly being unsafe you should try to sober them up, calm them down, help them and keep them safe. If they are a threat to you, yes it is fair enough to remove them – but not to a balcony.

So while Tostee was not guilty beyond reasonable doubt of her death, his actions did contribute towards it, and he should feel very remorseful. Sadly his actions since the incident suggest he isn’t.

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