Murder or manslaughter?
In the case of Gold Coast man Damian Sebo, 30, the jury over this weekend came back with a verdict of not guilty of murder, guilty of manslaughter.
Jennifer Tierney, the mother of Taryn Hunt, aged 16 at the time of her death in 2005 is outraged:
"I am feeling sick in the stomach, I am horrified.Yes that's true but let's back up a little and we will see why the the outrage of the dead girl's family is misplaced.
"I never believed they'd come back with that verdict. I was shocked.
"Taryn was not the girl she has been painted to be.
"Australia needs to change these laws and quickly."
Ms Tierney's sister, Deborah Brownstown, said: "No ordinary man of the same age would pick up a club and cave someone's head in."
Worse than that, we will see how decisions made by Jennifer Tierney on how her child was raised directly contributed to her daughter's death.
Fact 1. At the time of Hunt's death in 2005 she was a 16 year old school girl in the company of Sebo. What were they doing? They were drinking with mutual friends at Jupiters Casino.
More specifically, on Wednesday, September 7 2005 on a school night (September holidays were to begin 3pm Friday, September 9) Taryn Jessica Hunt aged 16 was drinking alcohol at a licenced venue.
In fact, she hadn't been to school on that day at all:
The court heard that on the day of the attack, the young couple had spent the day shopping, having lunch and had "made love" twice before going out drinking with mutual friends.Point 1. Hello? Where was the mother in all this? Letting her 16 year old daughter wag school and go drinking with her 28-year-old boyfriend.
Well, let's give her the benefit of the doubt on this point - after all there are plenty of parents who are unaware that their teenagers are drinking and truanting from school.
Fact 2. Damian Karl Sebo entered into a sexual relationship with Taryn Jessica Hunt at the age of 26. Hunt was 14. That amounts to statutory rape.
Point 2. What did Hunt's mother do? Not only condoned the illegal relationship, but also enabled it by inviting Sebo to live with her and her daughter.
The jury was told Sebo first started seeing Ms Hunt when she was 14 and after she threatened to move out with him, her mother let the couple live with her at Pacific Pines.In fact Sebo was living in the house at the time of Hunt's death.
Ms Hunt's mother, Jennifer Tierney, gave evidence yesterday saying her daughter had been difficult at times but she never thought Sebo would kill her.
She said she remembered that when the couple broke up and her daughter started seeing another man, Sebo warned her that Ms Hunt might be hurt if she continued her behaviour.
"He said, 'That girl needs to see a psychiatrist (and) if somebody doesn't do something soon she's either going to be raped or murdered'," she said.
The court was told Mr Sebo continued to live in the same household after the pair split...Fact 3. Taryn Jennifer Hunt appears to have been promiscuous. To use the correct term, a slut.
Sebo said the two were arguing about Hunt wanting to be dropped at another man's house, when she revealed she had cheated on him repeatedly during their relationship and bragged about how easy it had been. She allegedly pushed and hit him.Point 3. And it seems Hunt's mother knew about her daughter's whorish behaviour. It is becoming increasingly clear that Jennifer Tierney is a stupid, negligent woman.
"She kept going on about the people she'd been with, how and where, and what she did . . . she was just laughing in my face and that was it for me," he said...
...During the interview, Sebo also said Hunt had aborted a child he believed was theirs almost a year earlier, and had been acting differently ever since.
Sebo told police he and Taryn had been planning a future together and that they were intending to go overseas and have children.Fact 4A. Throughout the trial evidence Hunt was variously described in terms of 'Nobody says she's an angel', 'difficult', that her relationship with Sebo was 'tempestuous'. The fact that she had blackmailed her mother into letting an adult man conduct a sexual relationship with her in the family home by threatening to run away is indicative of her character.
However, Taryn's mother maintains the couple had split up and that Taryn had started seeing another person.
Fact 4B. It is clear that Sebo is emotionally immature and, quite possibly borderline mentally deficient. During the trial Tierney herself admitted she the never expected Sebo capable of violent rage.
Ms Tierney previously told The Sunday Mail of the difficulties in raising a teenage daughter who had attracted a much older lover.Point 4. In this day and age it's not fashionable to blame the victim, yet both Tierney and Hunt directly contributed to the events that followed.
"They did love each other for a couple of months. He never showed any aggression," she said.
That said, indeed Sebo deserves a hefty prison sentence for taking Hunt's life. In fact before the trial he had pleaded guilty to manslaughter, an offer rejected by the prosecution in favour of a charge of murder.
The jury's decision to find Sebo guilty of manslaughter is absolutely the correct one.
In light of the evidence at trial it is hypocritical in the extreme for Hunt's mother to be askance at the jury's findings.
Moreover the lack of shame she shows for her culpability in the matter is either another example of Tierney's maternal neglect or her abject stupidity.
The jury is out on that one.
UPDATE: Queensland attorney general Kerry Shine, treads a thin line between justice and the abandonment of due process by offering to look at the sentence given to Sebo.
Mr Shine said he was now seeking advice on grounds for an appeal of the sentence.Be careful Mr Shine. This particular case is not the best one to start this campaign with.
"As attorney-general, I cannot appeal a jury's decision to acquit," Mr Shine said.
"However, I have considered the sentencing remarks for the manslaughter charge, and I have asked the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions for advice about grounds for a possible appeal against the sentence imposed and the prospects of success."
First, the jury's decision was correct and second Sebo is facing a jail term.
This is not the same as drunken thugs who fell total strangers with one killer punch and who subsequently face no jail time whatsoever.
UPDATE II - In response to PDB below:
Thank you for your well-written and reasoned comment.
I respect your point of view and equally respectfully I have to disagree with it.
Indeed, I am basing my post based on the media reports. If you have an issue with how the media reported the case, then that is a subject that you should take up through the Press Council.
The substance of my comment was the reaction of Taryn Hunt's mother.
Indeed, she lost a daughter in the most distressing of circumstances, but that does not absolve her of the responsibility she directly bears regarding the death of her child and judging by her interview with the media, I'm not sure she appreciates her culpability.
This case has as many questions as it answers for instance:
1. Why did Taryn's mother allow her to become sexually active so early?
2. A 14 year-old child blackmailed her own mother to let her adult lover move into the family home. This suggests the action of not someone who was sweet natured but rather someone who could turn off the charm and become nasty if she didn't get her own way. Is this an accurate description of Taryn?
3. Why did Taryn's mother not go to the police to have Sebo charged with statutory rape considering the alarming age disparity?
4. Why did Taryn's mother condone her drinking?
5. Why did Taryn's mother allow Sebo to continue living in the house even after she knew that Taryn was seeing another person? (Side question - how many sexual partners is appropriate for a 16-year-old?)
6. Where is Taryn's father?
Having abrogated her responsibility in raising Taryn when she was 14, her mother seeks to abrogate her responsibility to Taryn again.
One would be somewhat more sympathetic if she had said to the media: “I wish I had never allowed her to enter into a relationship with Sebo in the first place, not necessarily because he was an unsuitable partner but because my daughter was too young.”
But now Tierney paints herself a victim. Had she showed courage to do the right thing by her daughter at the age of 14, Tierney could have saved two lives – that of her daughter and that of Sebo.
As I mention in the post, Sebo does deserve a hefty prison sentence for his crime (I'd be happy to see him spend 20 years behind bars, but then again, I believe someone who murders in cold blood should be executed) and I suspect that he is emotionally if not mentally retarded based on his pursuit of a relationship with a minor, no matter how willing she was.
The fact that you sat through the entire trial indicates that you are invested in the case and the nature of your comments that you are invested in Taryn's behalf.
Given the personal investment you're hardly a dispassionate observer - based on your initials are you Taryn's aunt?
Another question, why is an outside observer not entitled to comment on the worth of a jury's verdict? Who knows, may be one day you’ll serve jury duty and be asked to conduct yourself with impartiality.
As I mentioned in the update – that, unlike the cases The Courier-Mail mentioned this week, the Hunt-Sebo affair is quite different.
In this particular case, mitigating circumstances have everything to do with how and why the jury reached its decision.
Taryn wasn't some random girl in the street minding her own business, who copped a fatal punch to the head at the hands of a drunken stranger.
She was a sexually precocious child who treated her mother and Sebo poorly.
What demonstration of caring and kindness did she show her mother in blackmailing her?
What demonstration of caring and kindness did Taryn show Sebo in taunting him?
Indeed, what degree of self-preservation did Taryn display that night? Had she shown some better judgement, she might be alive today.
The issue is one of personal responsibility and the responsibility that parents have towards guiding, shaping and nurturing their children who are too immature to possess the degree of personal accountability that they might later grow to develop.
In this case, Jennifer Tierney has failed and killed her daughter as a result.