Sentencing – murder – use of weapon – premeditation – fleeing scene – disposal of evidence – personal mitigating factors
R v Esera  NZHC 2542 per Harvey J.
The defendant, Corrdon Esera, was found guilty by a jury for the murder of Misiona Talafu-Petelo. His co-defendant, a Mr Faataape, was acquitted on charges of murder as a party and of manslaughter.
On the night of the offending, Esera had after-work drinks with some friends at the Oakwood Manor Motel in Māngere. He was hugged by an intoxicated woman, which annoyed him. The woman taunted Esera and said her partner, a Mr Felotoni, would punch him. Felotoni is the victim’s father and the woman is his stepmother.
When Felotoni arrived at the motel, he confronted Esera and what the police later described as “a disorder incident” occurred. Esera left the address approximately 20 minutes before the police arrived. The victim left the scene but the police arrested Felotoni.
Esera went home, picked up an AR-15 military-style semi-automatic rifle and ammunition and told his wife he was dropping the gun off at a friend’s place. He then went to Faataape’s house and asked him to drive.
Esera and Faataape returned to the Oakwood Manor Motel and got out of the car to speak to the occupant of a unit. The vehicle was positioned in the carpark with a clear view of the entrance. A vehicle driven by the victim then arrived at the address. The victim also got out to speak with the occupant of the unit, then returned to the car and drove off. Esera instructed Faataape to follow the vehicle and loaded the magazine into the AR-15 rifle.
At 7.56pm the victim’s vehicle, with several occupants, passed Esera’s truck. Esera leaned out the passenger window and fired four shots into the victim’s vehicle. One of those bullets hit the victim, fatally injuring him.
Esera and Faataape then returned to Manurewa. Esera disposed of his phone the day after the shooting, then surrendered to police.
When life imprisonment for murder is imposed, the minimum period of imprisonment (MPI) must not be less than 10 years. But if one or more specified aggravating factors are present, an MPI of at least 17 years must be imposed.
Applicable principles: whether s 104 of the Sentencing Act applies – life imprisonment for murder minimum period of imprisonment – whether specified aggravating factors are present.
Held: s 104 of the Sentencing Act was not engaged and so an MPI of at least 10 years applied.
The judge held a starting point of 13 years for the murder, discounts of 10% were given for previous good character, rehabilitative efforts and potential. A further 5% was given for upbringing, leaving an end sentence of life imprisonment with an MPI of 11 years.