Beach Haven murder trial: Teens, ages 14 and 17, both guilty of stabbing death of Joshuah Tasi

Beach Haven murder trial: Teens, ages 14 and 17, both guilty of stabbing death of Joshuah Tasi

A 17- and 14-year-old boy accused of inflicting a frenzied, coordinated stabbing attack on a stranger after a minor traffic accident in an Auckland suburb of North Shore have been found guilty of murder.

The teenagers, now aged 19 and 15, wore white t-shirts – the older defendant was directly behind the younger – today as Auckland High Court juries returned the verdicts after eight hours of deliberations over two days.

The younger defendant appeared to fidget nervously as the jury foreman read aloud his co-defendant’s guilty verdict.

The gallery of the courtroom, full of relatives of the accused and the victim, remained silent except for one person who shouted: “I love you, son.”

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The duo, whose name remains temporarily suppressed, were arrested in March last year after Joshuah Tasi, 28, bled to death next to his crashed silver van on Beach Haven Rd.

Moments earlier, Tasi had honked the horn of the duo’s BMW and called the older defendant an “asshole” as he drove around them at an intersection they had been blocking, a witness testified shortly after the trial began last week.

The older defendant then allegedly accelerated to catch up with Tasi and cut in front of him, causing a minor accident that caused Tasi’s bumper to fall off.

“They acted in unison,” Crown prosecutor Brett Tantrum said during his closing remarks, explaining that both defendants took off their shirts and exited the BMW before approaching both front doors of Tasi’s vehicle, without giving him a chance. way to escape.

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“They then embarked on a sudden and violent attack on Mr Tasi… (He) stood no chance.”

Tasi suffered multiple stab wounds to his head and upper body, including two that were inflicted with such force that they entered one side of his body and exited the other.

The deadly knife pierced his rib and pierced his lung. It would have caused her death in a matter of minutes, a pathologist estimated.

The older defendant’s fingerprint was found on the driver’s side of Tasi’s vehicle, while the younger defendant’s fingerprint was found on the passenger side. Tasi’s blood was found inside her BMW, prosecutors alleged.

Immediately after the attack estimated to last between 10 and 15 seconds, the duo appeared to be in a celebrating mood, Tantrum told jurors this week.

Defense attorneys objected to the characterization.

“That’s what happens when you come to Beach Haven,” one witness recalled the defendants shouting as they jumped.

Another passerby described one of the defendants making a hand gesture that he described as a “dog signal”: raised with his pinky finger and thumb extended.

The gesture was mentioned repeatedly by both the prosecution and the defense, but jurors were not explicitly told that it is often used to show loyalty to the Mongrel Mafia.

Prosecutors said the celebratory attitude showed the defendants had hatched a plan and were congratulating each other on a job well done.

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“Both…were delighted with the result,” Tantrum said.

Joshuah Tasi was fatally stabbed in the North Shore suburb of Beach Haven.
Joshuah Tasi was fatally stabbed in the North Shore suburb of Beach Haven.

Defense attorney John Clearwater, who represented the younger of the two teenagers, argued that it would have been impossible for his client to hold a knife while making such a sign.

Even if the younger defendant was unarmed and did not stab the victim, jurors had the option of convicting him of murder if they believed he was aiding or abetting his co-defendant in doing so.

Clearwater argued that his client was too young to have formulated an “orchestrated and premeditated plan” in the seconds before the stabbing began.

“You might think that young people like (him) have a different psychological connection than adults,” he explained.

“In this short period of time… a 14-year-old would not fully understand the seriousness of his actions… to foresee the tragic outcome of death.”

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Marie Taylor-Cyphers, who represented the older of the two defendants, took a similar approach in her speech to the jury.

“The argument for him is simple: he had no intention of killing Mr. Tasi,” he explained.

She acknowledged that her client got out of his BMW and approached Tasi, his heart racing from the accident as “things heated up very quickly.”

But of all the injuries Tasi suffered, none would have been obviously fatal, the defense attorney argued.

“As unpleasant as this comparison is, it was not a slitting of the throat,” he said.

“This is not the cut of someone who had set out to end someone’s life.”

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She argued that authorities rushed to the conclusion that it had been a murder due to a trivial traffic incident, excluding any other explanation from the start.

“No one saw what was happening inside the van,” he explained, suggesting that Tasi could have left but didn’t for some reason.

“No one saw Mr. Tasi’s hands. Nobody saw what he was doing.”

She said it “just doesn’t make sense” that the young duo “immediately made a plan to kill him.”

But they did not have to specifically set out to kill Tasi to be convicted of his murder, prosecutor Tantrum said.

Another way to be convicted of murder is to seriously assault someone knowing that death could be a possible outcome and taking that risk anyway.

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He said jurors could safely infer there was a plan to stab the victim, regardless of whether or not there was a plan to kill him.

“There is no doubt that (they) together killed Joshuah Tasi,” Tantrum said.

“Mr. Tasi’s stabbings were not an accident.”

Tasi was remembered in the days after his death as an immensely talented guitarist who always sang, laughed and flashed a smile that could “melt any heart.”

“He often showed up to work with different hairstyles, glasses, hats and shoes,” his co-workers at RJ Don Panelbeaters recalled in a statement.

“He was a real character with a lot of charisma and funk. “We miss him very much.”

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He signed off last year with a public service at Glenfield College that included a karanga and a haka.

Judge David Johnstone set a sentencing date for the teens in July.

Craig Kapitan is an Auckland-based journalist covering courts and justice. He joined the Herald in 2021 and has reported on courts since 2002 in three newsrooms in the United States and New Zealand.