There had been some bad blood between Sancar and Orr over their use of heroin inside the prison. Orr had been taunting Sancar, and had also broken the glass window of Sancar’s cell. Orr demanded Sancar give him some of his heroin - Sancar refused, saying he’d already sold it to someone else.
Sancar was carrying half of a pair of scissors, which he had shaped and sharpened into a dagger using the grinder in the Industry Section of the jail. This type of weapon is generally known as a ‘shiv’. Sancar claimed he took the shiv with him when he left his wing that day because he feared he might be at risk from some sort of attack from Orr, who had apparently made threats against his life.
They were outside the Education Centre when a fist fight broke out, Orr taking on Sancar’s friend Pehlivan, and Sancar fighting Wicks. During the skirmish, Sancar pulled out the shiv and stabbed Wicks twice in the chest. The first stuck him near his sternum, penetrating the aorta, and the second hit him on the right side of his chest, penetrating the lung, diaphragm and liver.
Both stab wounds were potentially fatal. The first could not be treated, and the second, if taken alone, would have caused death if not treated.
Sancar threw the shiv into the Education Centre, and it was found there a short time later by staff.
“Q: You knew it was likely to kill him, you stab a man in the chest?
A: I stabbed him in the side.
Q: You stabbed him in the side and then to the front?
A: That’s right.
Q: You knew that it was likely to kill him, didn’t you?
A: No, I did not know it would kill him.
Q: You knew it would cause serious bodily harm to him?
A: Yes, I did.
Q: And you did it nevertheless?
A: That’s right.
Q: And you didn’t really care what injuries the stabbing caused him, did you?
A: No, I never.
Q: You thought that this act could cause his death but you were prepared to take the chance?
A: With my life pending, yes.”
Another prisoner, Henderson, said he saw Wicks strike a couple of glancing blows to Sancar, who then responded with “a couple of hooked sort of punches” in a round-arm style to Wicks’ upper right-hand side. He then noticed Wicks was bleeding on the upper right side. Henderson didn’t see any weapons.
There was no denying that Sancar intended to cause Wicks serious harm - he had admitted as much in his evidence. His justification was that Wicks was going to stab him first.
The jury were sent out to consider their verdict. After a short time they returned with a note to the Judge saying they were having difficulty reaching a unanimous verdict. Given that they had only been deliberating for a very short time, the Judge asked them to go back and discuss it further, and see if they could agree. They jury eventually returned a guilty verdict.
Regarding the verdict, the Judge gave what was known as a ‘Black‘ direction, named after an earlier case. It was not an uncommon course of action, in circumstances where the Judge felt that the time the jury had taken was quite short, as well as other factors. The standard direction is phrased in a way that gives no suggestion of which verdict would be preferred, or that they are obliged to negotiate, or “thrash it out” until they reach a unanimous decision. It merely asks them to consider each other’s views and opinions for a little longer and have a look at the evidence once more. The Judge usually points out that most juries are eventually able to reach a decision, and that they are under no particular time constraint.
The Appeal Court felt there was nothing wrong with the Judge’s actions, and rejected this argument.
The High Court had made it clear that where self-defence cannot be established, any killing with intent to kill or inflict serious harm will be murder. The only exception is where there is some other factor, such as provocation, that would justify reducing the charge to manslaughter. The Appeal Court found that in this case there was no such factor, and that the defence were really seeking what is often called a “compassionate verdict”.