07 May, 2010

Cheers

A group of Vietnamese and Indonesian friends had a big night out in the city, ending up at Cheers nightclub in George St, Sydney in the early hours of the morning. The group were quite drunk and their behaviour began to get disruptive, to the point where the bouncers were asked to remove at least one of them from the premises. Dang went up to the bouncer to try and stop his friend being taken outside, but was pushed away. Dang responded by pulling a knife out and stabbing Abboud Abboud, the bouncer, twice in quick succession.

One of the blows only caused a small cut on Abboud’s arm, but the other penetrated 18cm into his chest, and was fatal. Abboud was also stabbed in the shoulder by someone else in the group who was never identified. A witness with medical training said the blow was stuck with ‘moderate’ force.

Dang was arrested at the scene and taken to the police station where he made a video-recorded interview, admitting to deliberately stabbing Abboud twice. He made it clear he was angry about being pushed, although the attack was very sudden, and not planned. He claimed he found the knife on the street just before going into Cheers.
The interview included the following exchanges:
“Q: What happened then?
A: We went to Cheers. At first I thought there was nothing - no buzz, no fight, no excitement - we wanted to go home… security man, he got into a fight with my friends”
And:
“Q: I’ve been told that after the stabbing you showed this knife to a number of people. What can you tell me about that?
A: I showing the knife?
Q: Yes.
A: No, I didn’t show no - I just pulled a knife like I stop and then I - I was - they - they - they - was scared and I go ‘well I was scared too’ and then - yeah, he goes, ‘let’s go’. So then I go, ‘I’m going to throw this knife away before I get caught’, so…”

He was charged with murder and pleaded not guilty. Although he had admitted the stabbing, at trial his defence was that he did not have the necessary level of intent, or ’state of mind’ that is required for the Crown to prove murder. Dang claimed he was too “drunk and stoned” when the incident happened, having been drinking all night, smoking pot, and had also apparently taken four Rohypnol tablets (strong sleeping pills). He relied on the fact that he was so “drunk and stoned” that he didn’t have time to form any real intent - it was just a reaction.

The Judge commented on Dang’s claim that he took four Rohypnol tablets:
“Either way it is a lot of Rohypnol. Was he shooting off his mouth? Was it a bit of bravado? ‘Look at me. I’m a tough little fellow. I am not out of it; and look how many I have taken’… Is he loading it on and had he loaded it on, this drug taking, to a point where its credibility goes?”

His Honour also commented on the issue of Dang’s intent:
“It would be pretty difficult to resist a conclusion that as he stabbed a man in the chest with a knife then went in 18cm… he would have realised that doing that, he was going to cause serious injury, and would have intended indeed to cause really serious injury to Mr Abboud… As to intent, you may well think that it ordinary circumstances the inference that you intend to cause somebody really serious bodily harm is inevitable if you take a knife out of your coat, stab him in the chest, with a wound that penetrates so deeply it enters the heart itself.”

The Judge commented in relation to Dang’s claim that he found the knife:
“He says he picks up a knife lying on the street, on the footpath. He finds it in the middle of the footpath just shortly before he goes down to Cheers. This is the city of Sydney, the main business area. Does it strike you as credible that he had the great fortune, or as it transpires misfortune, to see the knife lying conveniently on the footpath just before he completes that short walk down to Cheers? You may regard that as you will.”

Dang also called evidence as to his good character, to say that he was not the type of person who would have committed a murder. Character evidence is also relevant to the issue of credibility, i.e. whether to believe him or not.

However the jury believed that at the very least, Dang intended to inflict serious harm upon Abboud, and that was enough to find him guilty of murder.

He appealed his conviction on the grounds that the Judge’s comments to the jury had been inappropriate, and would have influenced the jury to convict Dang.

The Appeal Court looked at all of the Judge’s summing-up to the jury, and found that his Honour had not stepped outside the limits of what a Judge is entitled to say in respect of the evidence he has seen and heard. The Court found that the Judge had always made it clear that it was a matter for the jury to decide whether the circumstances of the case raise reasonable doubt.

The appeal was rejected, and Dang was sentenced to 15 years imprisonment with a non-parole period of 10 years. Dang was released on 26 September 2003.

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