Death of Elijah Doughty

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On 29 August 2016, Elijah Doughty, a fourteen-year-old Indigenous Australian, was involved in a fatal traffic collision with a ute whilst riding a motorbike. The 56 year-old white male driver of the ute was also the owner of the motorcycle, which he had reported stolen the previous day. However, there is no evidence that Doughty had stolen the motorbike,[1][2][3] with his friends claiming he was handed the bike in the reserve where he was killed.[3]

The driver was subsequently charged with manslaughter but was acquitted by a jury on 21 July 2017 after a trial at the Supreme Court of Western Australia; however, he was found guilty of the lesser charge of dangerous driving causing death.

The incident led to significant protests, with accusations that the driver was not charged with, or convicted of, a more serious crime only because Doughty was Indigenous.[2]

Incident[edit]

On 28 August 2016, the owner of the motorbike and his wife had been out visiting friends, and when they returned home, he found that two children's motorbikes were missing. The owner searched streets near his home until 10:30pm. The next morning he resumed this search; at 8:30am he was parked near Gribble Creek, where the police had told him dirtbikes often appear, when he saw one of his bikes ridden by a hoodie-clad figure. He chased the bike in his Nissan Navara ute along a dirt track, colliding with it when "the bike unexpectedly turned right in front of him", killing Doughty.[4]

Doughty's injuries included his skull being split in half, brain stem snapped, spinal cord severed, most of his ribs broken, pelvis fractured, and leg and ankle mangled. His body was found 9.5 metres from the largest piece of wreckage; the ute had continued in a straight line for 34 metres.[4]

Kalgoorlie's acting police commander, Darryl Gaunt, told the media that the bike Doughty was riding had been reported stolen the night before his death, though it's not clear where Doughty got it.[3]

According to Doughty's friends, he had been handed the bike in the reserve.[3] During the court case, there was no suggestion that he knew he was riding a stolen bike or had taken it himself.[4]

Immediate aftermath[edit]

The following day, a protest occurred outside the Kalgoorlie Courthouse. Approximately 200 people, some armed with rocks and bottles, broke down the gates of the court and surrounded police; who used pepper spray and riot shields in response. Twelve police officers were injured during the disorder, with one requiring stitches, while several demonstrators were arrested. Five police cars and a local business were damaged.[5]

Darryl Doughty, Elijah's father, explained that the trouble started when court guards decided to lock the front door. Relatives and friends had wanted to hear the other side of the story, however they were refused entry to the court. The police prosecutor informed Darryl that the matter would be put off until that afternoon and completed by video link, and obtained Darryl's phone number. However Darryl was not contacted and the accused was flown to Perth instead.[3]

With tensions rising, Darryl addressed the gathered crowd asking them to calm down, however by then a small group had already damaged a police vehicle.[3]

Local Indigenous broadcaster Debbie Carmody accused local anti-crime Facebook groups of "inciting violence and murder" against Indigenous youth.[6]

With a vigil set-up at the site of Doughty's death, Kalgoorlie Police Superintendent Darryl Gaunt says his officers have witnessed non-Aboriginal residents driving fast and close to the bush vigil where Doughty died, yelling abuse at mourners.[7]

Investigation and trial[edit]

The driver was interviewed by police the same day as Doughty's death and said he was "trying to catch up with a motorbike that I know, I think, is mine, and hoping that the rider would go into the bush and fall off".[2]

The ute driver was charged with manslaughter and pleaded not guilty after his offer to plead guilty to the lesser charge of dangerous driving causing death was rejected by the state.[8]

The trial was held in the Supreme Court of Western Australia from 17 to 21 July 2017.[9]

During the trial, the ute driver, who cannot legally be identified, stated he had not intended to hit Doughty and claimed that Doughty had "veered in front of him". The driver admitted however he could not prevent the collision because he was driving too close to the motorbike.[10]

On 21 July 2017, the jury in the trial found the driver not guilty of manslaughter but convicted him of dangerous driving occasioning death. Following the verdict, members of the public gallery screamed abuse at the defendant and the jury; the court was briefly adjourned to allow their removal by security.

Supporters of Doughty, watching the proceedings in Kalgoorlie via video link, protested the verdict, many wearing T-shirts with the Black Lives Matter slogan. The protest was described by journalists as vocal but peaceful.

Aftermath[edit]

Following the jury verdict on 21 July, a number of rallies and vigils were held across Australia to call for justice for Doughty.[11] A crowd of approximately 150 protesters gathered outside the Supreme Court of New South Wales on 24 July 2017 while chanting "What do we want? Justice. What have we got? Fuck all."[12] Some protestors allegedly vandalised the façade of the Supreme Court by spreading red ochre, while one woman screamed "This is the blood of Aboriginal people, don't wait for this to be your children's."[11]

On 26 July 2017, protestors in Brisbane sat on the road to block the intersection of Albert St and Adelaide St.[13] Another protest took place in Melbourne on 28 July 2017, in which protestors marched to Flinders Street railway station then sat on the road and started a fire in a metal drum for the purpose of a smoking ceremony,[14] blocking one of the city's busiest intersections.[15] One man was arrested and the Metropolitan Fire Brigade extinguished the fire.

On 30 July, comedian Chris Lilley apologised for reposting a controversial video a few days after the verdict. It was a music video titled "Squashed Nigga" and was part of his 2011 TV comedy series, Angry Boys. It featured his fictional character S.mouse singing about an Aboriginal boy who had died from being run over by a truck and the video included a boy lying on a road. Many criticised the timing of the posting, however Lilley insisted there was no relation to "current news stories".[16][17]

On 28 August 2017, police charged Doughty's father, Darryl, over an incident at the Kalgoorlie Magistrates Court. The distraught father was selected for a security search with a metal detector wand by a male court security and custodial officer, but police allege he failed to comply and left the building. Police claim Darryl was seen "acting aggressively" towards a member of the public and allegedly assaulted a court officer causing minor injuries. He was charged with assault and released on bail after appearing at court where he pleaded not guilty. He is due to appear in court again on 6 September[needs update].[18]

The man responsible for Doughty's death was granted parole after serving about 19 months behind bars.[19]

Suicide prevention expert, academic and social justice advocate Gerry Georgatos, who has supported[20][21] the Doughty family since his death, stated that "Someone has to call out the perpetrator of Elijah's death for what he did. It was rage filled violence, of such intense rage that it was murderous."[22][23]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Graham, Chris (23 July 2017). "Elijah Doughty, 14, who was killed in Boulder near Kalgoorlie in August 2016. The Killing Fields: How We Failed Elijah Doughty, And Countless Others". New Matilda. Retrieved 23 August 2017.
  2. ^ a b c Wahlquist, Calla (27 March 2018). "Man who killed Indigenous teenager Elijah Doughty given parole". The Guardian. Retrieved 12 May 2017.
  3. ^ a b c d e f Wahlquist, Calla (8 September 2016). "'Tell the world we want justice.' Elijah Doughty's death exposes Kalgoorlie's racial faultline". The Guardian. Retrieved 12 May 2017.
  4. ^ a b c Taylor, Paige (22 July 2017). "Elijah Doughty lost and Kalgoorlie simmers". The Australian. Retrieved 23 August 2017.
  5. ^ "Two years after Elijah Doughty death, racial tensions in Kalgoorlie still high". Perth Now. 9 August 2018. Retrieved 30 May 2019.
  6. ^ Allan-Petale, David (30 August 2016). "Indigenous journalist blames Kalgoorlie riots on Facebook crime pages". WAtoday. Retrieved 22 July 2017.
  7. ^ Taylor, Paige (28 September 2016). "'Come back, unbreak our hearts,' says Elijah Doughty's mum". The Weekend Australian. Retrieved 12 May 2018.
  8. ^ McNeill, Heather (6 February 2017). "Man accused of killing Kalgoorlie teen Elijah Doughty seeks trial". WAtoday. Retrieved 22 July 2017.
  9. ^ Farcic, Ele (6 February 2017). "Elijah Doughty: Trial over Kalgoorlie teen's death set for July". PerthNow. Retrieved 8 August 2017.
  10. ^ Menagh, Joanna (17 July 2016). "Elijah Doughty death: Kalgoorlie man claims teenager's motorbike 'veered' in front of him". ABC Online. Retrieved 22 July 2017.
  11. ^ a b Thorpe, Nakari (25 July 2017). "Rallies across the country call for justice for Elijah Doughty". SBS Online. Retrieved 8 August 2017.
  12. ^ Cockburn, Paige (25 July 2017). "Elijah Doughty: Hundreds protest against sentence, cover Supreme Court in red ochre". ABC Online. Retrieved 26 July 2017.
  13. ^ Clun, Rachel (26 July 2017). "'No justice, no peace': Protesters march for justice for Elijah Doughty". Brisbane Times. Retrieved 30 July 2017.
  14. ^ "Rallies across the country call for justice for Elijah Doughty". ABC Online. 28 July 2017. Retrieved 8 August 2017.
  15. ^ "Elijah Doughty: Melbourne brought to standstill as protesters march against sentence". ABC Online. 28 July 2017. Retrieved 30 July 2017.
  16. ^ "Chris Lilley says blackface video not connected to Elijah Doughty protests". Australia: ABC. 30 July 2017. Retrieved 30 May 2019.
  17. ^ Wolfe, Natalie (30 July 2017). "Chris Lilley under fire for re-posting video 'Squashed N***a' less than a week after Elijah Doughty case". News.com.au. Retrieved 31 July 2017.
  18. ^ http://www.sbs.com.au/nitv/nitv-news/article/2017/08/29/emotions-run-high-one-year-death-elijah
  19. ^ Clun, Rachel (27 March 2018). "'Elijah's killer released': Paroled after 19 months". The Australian.
  20. ^ ReberHayman, Madeline (23 September 2017). "'Elijah Doughty':". NITV The Point.
  21. ^ Davidson, Helen (23 January 2017). "'Critical Response':". The Guardian.
  22. ^ Georgatos, Gerry (23 July 2017). "'Elijah's death was murderous':". The Stringer.
  23. ^ Carmody, Elizabeth (2016). "'Tjuma Pulka interviews Gerry Georgatos in Kalgoorlie':". Tjuma Pulka and The Stringer.