Hard News by Russell Brown


I had already figured that the jury in the David McNee case probably wouldn't be able to agree that there was murderous intent in the hail of blows that killed him, and so it transpired. I'm also not expecting the flurry of angry press releases that usually follows a jury opting for a lesser charge of manslaughter.

David McNee, for the string-'em-up crowd, is an unattractive victim. The interior decorator's sex life was extreme and risky; he cruised for rough young Polynesian men and paid them for various sexual acts. He was not someone's beloved son or daughter, snuffed out in the course of mainstream life.

The defence case was that his killer, 24 year-old Philip Layton Edwards (consistently referred to as a "street kid" and once even as a "child" by his lawyer), had agreed after being picked up on K Road only to masturbate in front of McNee, but not be touched by him - and when McNee crossed the line, he "lost control" and beat him to death, then left, stealing clothes and alcohol and McNee's car.

I couldn't say that the jury, having heard all the evidence and deliberated for two days, made the wrong decision in opting for manslaughter, but already there appears to be a view abroad of Edwards as a victim, even though he was only 11 days out of jail when he met and killed McNee. He doubtless had a bad life, but the fact remains he agreed to go to McNee's house to perform a paid sexual act, then beat him to death and stole his belongings.

We have a number of historical cases in which an alleged homosexual advance was considered provocation to homicide. This case suggests that idea hasn't entirely gone away. Edwards was disarmingly frank about his revulsion at the idea of being considered homosexual himself.

At any rate, there will be many gay people immensely relieved that the whole lurid business is over. McNee's lifestyle was very far from typical - and to be fair, it was never depicted as such - but for as long as the case ran, it fed negative perceptions. As the intriguing new Lavender Islands survey has shown, most gay men (and many more lesbians) are in steady relationships. (Actually, it ain't over yet - TV3's 20/20 on Sunday will feature a year-long investigation titled 'Did David McNee have to die?')

I've been having a mildly tetchy correspondence this week with the Maxim Institute's PR man, Scott McMurray. I asked him for comment on the sample submission on the Civil Union Bill provided by Maxim, apparently to be signed by children, which contained the following wording:

We feel it is important for the government to say it is best for children when parents are married… We would hate even more the idea of having a second mum in the house, pushing dad out of the way… Some of us are also very confused. We thought it was good to get married. But now the government seems to be saying that marriage doesn't matter.

McMurray replied that the sample submission never appeared on the Maxim website, but was provided via an "email group for people who want information and updates on the Bills":

After repeated requests for simple instructions on making a submission and some examples of what a letter might say we obliged with an email to the group. We emphasised that people should think about the issue and not copy the letters. Maxim was specifically asked whether students can make submissions and how they would do this. One of the example letters we send [sic] was therefore from a 'pupil', not a child.

We are certainly not imposing anything on anyone, rather it was assisting those who wanted to be informed and involved. The question is do young adults have views that are valid in relation to this legislation? 16 years olds [sic] can enter a civil union or marriage so why shouldn't they make submissions on laws that will effect [sic] them. Unlike a CIR anyone can make a submission to a select committee. It is the job of committees to judge each submission on its merits.

I'll leave it to you to assess the distinction between a "pupil" and a child, and at whom the heavily loaded mummy-and-daddy language in the sample would really seem to be aimed.

We also discussed the issue of whether or not Maxim planned to contribute to the campaign of successful AUSA presidential candidate Greg Langton, of which I am already tiring. Langton was duly elected, he's probably a nice young man, and I hope he proves a good president. But, according to McMurray:

I can emphatically reiterate that your source is incorrect as Maxim never considered contributing (let alone talked figures) to Greg's campaign.

In which case, someone closely connected with Langton's campaign (and with the Young Nats for that matter) really shouldn't have discussed the-offer-that-was-never-made with other people, and certainly not in such detail. Honestly, somebody needs to get their story straight here.

Staying on the student tip, the Herald's new youth market advertising vehicle student paper, Fuse, accompanies the paper today. It's not exactly bad, just underwhelming in comparison to the best of the real student rags. Matt Nippert has a useful roundup of the haps in the student media over at Fighting Talk.