Amy Smith found not guilty of murder, guilty of manslaughter

The woman who fatally shot her partner on his rural Auckland property thinking he was an intruder has been cleared of murder but found guilty of manslaughter.

Amy Christine Smith has been on trial in the High Court at Auckland accused of murdering Danny Bruce Taylor in 2019.

Smith’s trial was the only one allowed to continue during the region’s alert level 3 lockdown.

After the jury returned an 11 to 1 majority verdict, Justice Mary Peters told Smith given her conviction for manslaughter she was now subject to the three strikes law.

She had no prior convictions.

In April of 2019, there was a substantial amount of cannabis in the converted barn Taylor called home in South Head and the pair feared it would be stolen.

Smith, who had used methamphetamine and cannabis that night, went downstairs believing an intruder was on the property.

Smith told the court she turned off the lights because she felt like a “goldfish in a goldfish bowl”.

Then she said she armed herself with a rifle that was already loaded on the piano.

Without the light, she described it as “pitch black” and added under cross-examination that she could see the edge of the bottom of the open door because it was white.

She claimed she never consciously pulled the trigger but rather sensed some sort of rushing towards her and as she moved backwards the gun went off.

Smith accepted her finger was on the trigger.

When the gun fired, the bullet went through Taylor’s arm and lung, striking his heart.

Smith called 111 for an ambulance but the 52-year-old died before help arrived.

During the trial, defence lawyer Susan Gray asked her what it was like while she spoke to the call taker seekinghelp.

“It was sheer hell. I just didn’t know what to do.”

In the Crown case, Taylor and Smith anticipated they would be the targets of cannabis theft and had prepared by loading guns.

Further, in the Crown case, she was frustrated by what she perceived as Taylor’s failure to be more assertive in protecting what was his and fired a deliberate shot in attack.

Sergeant Simon Brown co-ordinated the initial response on the ground as they descended on foot to reach the lit barn, leaving their cars parked about 400m away.

“There was no street lighting whatsoever,” he told jurors during the trial.

The sky overhead was clear enough to see stars but it was a dark area, he said.

“Walking on that gravel road, you couldn’t see if there was a pothole in front of you.”

As police secured the barn Brown noticed the “pungent” smell of cannabis on the upper level where bunches hung from the ceiling each like a “dried florist arrangement”.

Smith was upset and angry, he said.

“I do recall her saying: ‘I don’t want you here. I want the ambulance here.’ Something along those lines.”

She lashed out at one of the officers, he said.

Senior Sergeant Christopher Goldsmith also gave evidence during the trial.

He had arrived at the Henderson police station that morning shortly before Smith.

As the clock neared 5am, he introduced himself to her, escorted her to an interview room and read out her rights.

Smith replied: ‘Yeah sweet. I just shot him. I didn’t know it was him’.”

After she was able to speak to a lawyer, she was asked if she would be making a statement.

“All I know is that my partner is not here because of me.”

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