December 3, 2018
Man who counselled wife to kill herself using her emails to appeal conviction
ABC News, Melanie Vujkovic
A Queensland man who was sentenced to 10 years in prison for encouraging and helping his wife to kill herself so he could access her life insurance is appealing against his conviction using emails allegedly written by his wife to Exit International — a group founded by euthanasia campaigner Doctor Philip Nitschke.
Graham Morant’s conviction and sentencing set a national precedent for the charge of counselling suicide.
He is now appealing both on the basis of new evidence and that he was denied a fair trial.
Emails allegedly written by Jennifer Morant to Exit International talk about her desire to end her own life.
The emails between Jennifer Morant, 56, and Exit International came to light after Graham Robert Morant was found guilty on two charges of counselling and aiding suicide for persuading his wife to kill herself in November 2014 and helping her buy the necessary equipment from a hardware store.
The court heard Morant was the sole beneficiary of Ms Morant’s three life insurance policies, worth $1.4 million, which Justice Peter Davis concluded was the motivation for his actions.
Morant’s lawyers filed an application to the Court of Appeal over his conviction and sentence, listing four grounds, including the “fresh evidence not discoverable by reasonable diligence at the time of the trial”.
He is also appealing that the sentence was “manifestly excessive”.
The emails were sent to Exit International in the months before her death.
In one of the letters to Exit in May 2014 — six months before she died — Ms Morant allegedly wrote that she desperately needed the help of the organisation to end her life “in a peaceful manner”.
“I am in chronic pain for the past 3 years now, with Spinal Surgery not giving me any relief,” the email read.
“In August 2011, I fractured my spine from Osteo Perosis, and I had 3 rods, 2 plates and cement injected into my spine, but the operation was not a success and now I am having to take large amounts on a daily basis of Oxycontin, Endone, Tramadal, Stemetil, Maxolon, Panadol Osteo, but most days I do not get out of bed because the pain and the nausea is so bad.
“I am 56 years old and I have no quality of life any longer … I am so tired of being in pain everyday, I now need your help and experience to end my pain and suffering.”
Ms Morant also allegedly wrote to the organisation after a failed suicide attempt in September saying that she had “discussed [this] with my husband but he is too upset to help me”.
“I am all alone with my pain & I have no one to help me except you, as I live in a rural community & find it hard to drive off the mountain where we live, and my husband won’t take me to your workshops, so I could talk to you,” the email read.
She was found dead in her car in November.
Dr Nitschke said the emails proved the circumstances of the case against Morant were “shown to differ significantly from the picture painted” of him throughout the trial.
“Exit staff remember Jenny as being lovingly cared for by her husband, who was considered to be as kind, considerate and as compassionate as any husband could be,” Dr Nitschke said.
“While a physical able person can suicide unassisted, a person with a profound physical disability or impairment will need the help of others.
“Those most likely to be asked will be those closest to the person, that is the person’s wife or husband, or children.
“The severity of the sentencing for this act of love is totally inappropriate.”
During sentencing, Justice Peter Davis said Morant “took advantage” of Ms Morant’s “vulnerability as a sick and depressed woman”.
“You counselled your wife to kill herself because you wanted to get your hands on the $1.4 million,” Justice Davis said.
Through evidence given to the court by Ms Morant’s sister Lynette Lucas and good friend Judy Dent, Morant spoke openly to Ms Morant about planning to build a religious commune with bunkers in the Gold Coast hinterland as a haven from the biblical rapture.
Under oath, Ms Dent told the court that when Ms Morant visited her a week before her death she said “I have to do it”.
“I have to kill myself and Graham will be helping me,” Ms Dent said Ms Morant told her.
In the notice of appeal, Morant said: “I did not counsel my wife to suicide because I did not say the words, which witnesses said were the words that my wife said I said”.
“Evidence that my wife could not rationally have made such statements at the time that she was alleged to have made them was not controverted.”
He also said he was denied a fair trial by the “failure of the prosecution to disclose a document relating to the provenance of the charge against me”, referencing an email sent to the arresting officer by another police witness.
During sentencing the court heard there had been no conviction in Queensland for the counselling suicide charge and research had also failed to find a conviction for a similar offence in another jurisdiction.
The court’s decision made international news headlines.