Man acquitted of double murder – a case of self-defence – Part 1

Last week, following a two week trial, Christopher Carter was allowed to walk free from the Brisbane Supreme Court after being on remand for over two years for two charges of murder.

There are so many issues and so much to discuss in relation to this matter that we will need to break it up over two articles. In this article we will give a background to the facts of the case and what happened during the trial and in the next article we will discuss the legal principles involved.  When you first read these facts you might think that this is a case where Carter was clearly guilty – but as this matter shows the law is very complicated and is designed to ensure a just result.

Facts of the case

After spending his first day of work at the Canungra Army Barracks on 20 January 2015, Christopher Carter drove to the Upper Coomera home of his ex-wife Renee Carter to talk about their children and abusive messages that she had been sending to him. When Carter arrived Renee was standing on the patio smoking a cigarette.

Things became heated and Renee went inside to check on her young son before returning brandishing a knife. Carter wrestled Renee to the ground and stabbed her several times in the neck and stomach to get her off him before Corey Croft, a convicted paedophile who Carter found out some years earlier had forced a 10-year-old girl to shower with him, began attacking him.

Carter and Corey were wrestling and in the course of this struggle Carter stabbed Corey several times. Corey then fell to the ground and Carter felt something hit him in the back.  At this stage Carter didn’t know where Renee had gone and started moving to the back of the house.  He turned around and saw that it was Renee who had hit him in the back.  Carter then stabbed Renee with the knife again and says that he did it because he was fearful for his life.  He says that he didn’t know what was going on and that he didn’t have time to think of anything.  He says that he thought he was being attacked again so stabbed Renee so that he wouldn’t be killed.

“I was in a state of shock, I couldn’t believe what happened. I stabbed her. I didn’t mean to do it. I pushed her down off me. The way she fell to the ground … it was essentially like she was unconscious and I’ve seen a pool of blood was coming from her head.  I ended up putting the knife in Renee’s hand.  The only thing I remember thinking in my head was: ‘It’s your knife, you can have it back’,” Carter said at his trial.

Carter then jumped the back fence of the suburban Upper Coomera home before throwing his clothes in a nearby bin and returning to his home after the attack. He spent most of that night in his garage contemplating suicide.  “I was sort of under the impression someone would have seen what was going on. I was under the impression I’d be the first point of call for any police. I spent most of the night in the garage. There was no way out of it. It was only a matter of time before I was going to be sitting here in this position (in court).

“That’s essentially the decision I made. I was planning to ride off Mt Tamborine to kill myself.” But Carter couldn’t go through with the suicide attempt and ended up going home before going to work.  “I was essentially just waiting for the door to open and be asked to leave the premises. I was essentially just waiting for police to come.”

During his interview with the police Carter told the police that he wasn’t fearful of his life when Renee fist threatened him with a knife. This would later be a critical point in his trial and we’ll explain why in our next article.

The trial

At his trial Carter argued that he had acted in self-defence. Very simply, the law in Queensland says that a person is allowed to do whatever is necessary, including kill another person, if they believe that the other person is going to kill them or cause them serious injury.  This is known as ‘self-defence’ and is a complete defence, meaning that if the jury agrees that the defendant was acting in self-defence then they would be acquitted of the charge completely.

Once the prosecution established that Carter was responsible for the killing of Renee ad Corey, Carter must then establish the defence of self-defence. Once self-defence has been established, it then turns back on the prosecutor to prove that self-defence has not been made out (for example, by showing that Carter was not fearful of his life or that there were other options available to Carter other than killing Renee and Corey).

On 16 November 2017 the jury of six men and six women found Carter not guilty of murder. In our next article we’ll be discussing the legal principles around this matter and explain the reasons as to why the jury may have found Carter not guilty.

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