NT cop trial could move
There is concern about a possible plan to move the murder trial of an NT police officer from Alice Springs to Darwin.
Constable Zachary Rolfe is scheduled to appear in Alice Springs Local Court via videolink on Thursday, charged with the murder of 19-year-old indigenous man Kumanjayi Walker.
Mr Walker, 19, was shot by police at his home in Yuendumu, 300 kilometres from Alice Springs, on the evening of Saturday November 9.
Because the local medical centre had been evacuated earlier in the day, Mr Walker was taken to a nearby police station, where he died. His family and other community members were gathered outside the station, but did not find out about the death until hours after it had occurred.
Locals say the defence counsel may ask for the case to be moved to Darwin because of the level of emotion involved, but they reject concerns their attendance could be disruptive.
“Warlpiri [a Yuendumu committee] are only planning a peaceful sit down on Alice Springs court lawns, not big protests as speculated,” the representative group said in a statement.
“Since this tragic event happened, the Yuendumu community have respected the police officer's right to a fair trial and the leaders and elders strongly encouraged their community and the wider community to do so as well.”
Moving the case to Darwin would prevent many community members affected by the incident from attending.
“Moving the trial to Alice Springs, when it happened in Yuendumu, already places a heavy burden on community members,” spokesperson Ned Hargraves said.
“Darwin is too far away from country for people to travel to and does not respect Warlpiri's wishes.”
Mr Walker’s death has damaged relations between police and the Aboriginal community, with rank and file officers in the NT angry that one of their own has been charged with murder.
Mr Walker was being arrested for breaches of the terms of his prison release, including removing an electronic ankle bracelet and fleeing from a rehabilitation centre, when he was shot.
NT Police Association president Paul McCue recently said Const Rolfe would plead not guilty and “vigorously contest the charge”.
The scheduled videolink hearing this week is expected to be the first stage of a long legal process towards a trial.
The incident is being treated as a death in custody. No police officer has ever been convicted over the death of an Aboriginal person in custody.