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Life before bars for wife murderer -

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Life before bars for wife murderer

The World Today - Tuesday, 26 August , 2008 12:30:00

Reporter: Zoie Jones

ELEANOR HALL: Now to the Northern Territory where an Aboriginal man has just been sentenced to two
life terms in prison for the brutal rape and murder of his wife during a prolonged, drunken rage.
Ronald Djana was charged with murder rather than the lesser charge of manslaughter and will spend a
minimum of 27 years in prison.

As Zoie Jones reports his case has raised questions about the process of plea bargaining for male
Aboriginal offenders. And a warning, this story has some graphic content.

ZOIE JONES: During the trial of 33 year old Ronald Djana, the evidence at times was so gruesome
that members of the jury broke down in tears. Last month a Supreme Court jury found Djana guilty of
murdering and raping his wife in one of the Alice Springs town camps.

The crimes were committed in May last year after a drinking binge that began in the Todd River, a
dry river bed that's often home to chronic drinkers. Fuelled by beer and jealousy, the court was
told that Djana began beating his wife that afternoon.

He threatened to kill her, punched and kicked her, stripped her naked and dragged her limp body
over rough ground to the couple's house. Then he raped her with a metal rod causing severe internal

The ordeal ended at two the next morning when Djana rang an ambulance to get help for his bloodied
wife. The court was told that when the medics arrived, Djana cradled his lifeless wife and cried.

The violence in this case prompted the Crown Prosecutor Nanette Rogers to reject any plea
bargaining for the lesser charge of manslaughter and instead push ahead with the charges of murder
and rape.

It was Nanette Rogers who spoke out about child sex abuse that helped provide a catalyst for the
Federal Intervention. In the Northern Territory, the number of manslaughter cases far outweigh
those that end up in court as murder cases.

Des Rogers is a campaigner against domestic violence in Aboriginal communities and says the charge
of murder should be applied more often in drunken attacks by men on their partners.

DES ROGERS: Unless we've applied the full force of the law in such cases, we're never really going
to achieve anything. Now I'm not a great advocate for prison sentences, but certainly for these
sorts of cases we have to apply the maximum that's required regardless of your past and regardless
of your race as well.

ZOIE JONES: So is there a problem within the Alice Springs Aboriginal legal aid in that they do
push for manslaughter rather than murder? Or they have in the past?

DES ROGERS: Well I wouldn't point the blame purely at them, I think it's just the system that's
created, that perception that there is an excuse there because of somebody's upbringing, or the way
they were treated in their younger years. And certainly I don't believe that that warrants a gain
certainly from murder, for a charge of murder down to manslaughter. I think it's just appalling.

ZOIE JONES: Richard Coates is the director of Public Prosecutions in the Territory and it was his
decision that Djana face murder.

RICHARD COATES: If the evidence is there then the matter would proceed as a murder trial, this idea
that some sort of sympathy for the accused comes into that, those deliberations is just not right.

ZOIE JONES: Unfortunately this case doesn't stand out as a unique case, in terms of a prolonged
bashing, alcohol fuelled and a domestic violence situation turning into a death. In future cases
are you able to comment, will the DPP apply for murder rather than manslaughter?

RICHARD COATES: You've hit the nail on the head when you talk about alcohol fuelled violence, but
quite often the other witnesses to the incident are also affected by alcohol and often we haven't
got the sort of evidence that we would like to prove that the person intended to cause death or to
cause serious injury.

If there are no admissions to that we've got to be able to prove it from other objective evidence
and sometimes that's not available.

ZOIE JONES: An Alice Springs woman who's in contact with the victim's family says they're relieved
that Ronald Djana will be put away for a long time.

ELEANOR HALL: Zoie Jones with that report.