Nitschke link to world-first suicide conviction appeal
A MAN who is serving a 10 year jail sentence for counselling and aiding his wife to kill herself has asked an appeal court to consider fresh evidence from euthanasia group, Exit International.
A jury in October, 2018, found Graham Robert Morant, 69, guilty of counselling Jennifer Morant, his wife of 14 years, to kill herself and of aiding her to commit suicide in 2014.
It was the first conviction in the world for counselling suicide.
Jenny Morant, 56, who suffered from chronic back pain but did not have a terminal illness, was found dead in her car at Wongawallan, Mount Tamborine, on November 30, 2014.
The Crown case was that Morant had aided his wife's suicide by driving her to a hardware and helping her load a generator that she used to kill herself.
Morant, a born-again Christian builder, will spend at least five years behind bars, as he will not be eligible to apply for parole until October, 2023.
The Court of Appeal was told it was only after the trial that his lawyers became aware of emails between Mrs Morant and Exit International, founded by euthanasia campaigner Dr Philip Nitschke.
The Court of Appeal was asked to consider the emails and an affidavit from Dr Nitschke as fresh evidence, as part of Morant's appeal against conviction and sentence, on four grounds.
The appeal court heard in one of the letters to Exit in May, 2014 - six months before she died - Ms Morant allegedly wrote that she desperately needed the help of the organisation to end her life "in a peaceful manner".
She said she had been in chronic pain for the last three years, with spinal surgery not giving her any relief.
Ms Morant also allegedly wrote to the organisation after a failed suicide attempt in September saying that she had "discussed (this) with my husband but he is too upset to help me".
"I am all alone with my pain and I have no one to help me except you, as I live in a rural community and find it hard to drive off the mountain where we live, and my husband won't take me to your workshops, so I could talk to you," the email read.
She was found dead in her car in November, 2014.
One of Morant's appeal grounds included the "fresh evidence not discoverable by reasonable diligence at the time of the trial".
James Benjamin, counsel for Morant in the appeal, said the Crown case was that Morant counselled his wife to commit suicide, between February and November, 2014.
But the potential evidence from the emails to Exit showed that at quite a late stage there was no counselling by Morant.
Mr Benjamin pointed to Mrs Morant's alleged comment that she had discussed suicide with her husband but he was too upset to help her.
He said the emails were evidence of an interest in the mind of the deceased in taking her own life.
It was evidence suggesting independent efforts in following through with that and that they were being done without the knowledge of the appellant, his assistance or counselling, Mr Benjamin said.
That evidence would have been extremely relevant to the assessment of the Crown case for the counselling charge in particular, he said.
Counsel for the Director of Public Prosecutions said the emails could add strength to the Crown case that Mrs Moran had thoughts in the past about killing herself, but they had dissipated, and it was only achieved through her husband's counselling.
Morant is also appealing his 10-year sentence, claiming it was "manifestly excessive".
Mr Benjamin also raised appeal grounds relating to the way Justice Davis directed the jury and summed up the evidence.
Mr Benjamin said if the appeal was successful, verdicts on both counts should be set aside and a retrial ordered on both counts.
Counsel for the Crown said Justice Davis had correctly directed the jury and the sentence was appropriate for counselling and aiding his wife to commit suicide.
Sentencing Morant, Justice Peter Davis found he was motivated by money in counselling and aiding his wife to commit suicide.
Morant was sole beneficiary of life insurance policies worth $1.4 million.
"You convinced Mrs Morant that she should kill herself," Justice Thomas told Morant.
"In doing so, you took advantage of her vulnerability as a sick and depressed woman."
He said Morant made statements to his wife that caused her to take her own life, motivated by the prospect of financial gain.
"You have not shown any remorse for the offences you have committed," Justice Davis said.
Mrs Morant's sister, Lynette Lucas, told the Supreme Court that Jenny told her that Graham wanted her to kill herself so he could get $1.4 million from her life insurance.
She said Jenny told her she feared for her life.
After coming home from church on November 30, 2014, to find a note from his wife, Morant called triple-0, telling the operator it looked like she had gone off to "do herself harm''.
The day before, Morant had driven his wife to a hardware store and helped her load a petrol generator that she used the next day to kill herself.
Morant at first denied knowing about the generator his wife used, but later admitted to police Jenny told him she was going to use a generator to kill herself, before she bought it.
He said when he went to church the next day, leaving his wife at home, with the generator in her car, there was an "off chance'' of her killing herself.
Morant said his wife had "a zest and zeal to die''.
Mrs Lucas said Jenny told her Graham wanted to buy a property with the insurance money, as a safe commune "for when the raptures and Armageddon came".
The Court of Appeal judges reserved their decision.