When Pora was 17, in 1994, he was arrested by police in Otara and held in custody and questioned for over four days without a lawyer. The police got him to confess to a brutal rape and murder. He was charged and convicted despite the fact that he could not identify what the victim looked like or where and what her house looked like. During the trial prosecution witnesses were paid up to $5000 each by police to testify.
The real killer is believed to be Malcolm Rewa, who was jailed for other offences in 1998. But Pora has remained behind bars for 21 years. It is a clear case of the Police making someone take the fall, and railroading them into jail.
Minister of Justice Judith Collins has callously disregarded calls for an inquiry into the case – let alone for Pora to be pardoned and released. She claims that it would be ‘un-constitutional’ for her to bow to the ‘media campaign’ in support of Pora. She says that he must follow more legal avenues first.
Earlier in the year Maori Television ran a documentary about Pora aimed at raising awareness of the injustice.
The case has recently gotten coverage in the mainstream media. The 3rd Degree show ran a segment about Pora’s case. 3rd Degree argues that Pora is innocent and this could be the worst case of miscarriage of justice in New Zealand’s history. The show is well worth watching: you can view it here.
The New Zealand Herald have run multiple articles about the case and there has been widespread discussion about it in the internet media.
It is not just the media that have raised calls for an inquiry or pardon. The Labour Party, Greens and Maori Party have all called for a inquiry – strangely enough so has the New Zealand Police Association. Winston Peters is even on record saying that he thinks Pora is innocent. The Daily Blog points out that when the Police Association is calling for an inquiry then the police in question must have conducted an extremely corrupt investigation.
After the 3rd Degree show, the clothing label Illicit launched a T-Shirt fundraiser. This is the first move I know of to try and actively get people involved in a campaign to free Pora.
What much of the mainstream media try to ignore is the systematically racist nature of the criminal justice system. The 3rd Degree show didn’t discuss racism at all and the NZ Herald articles steer well clear of accusations that the police, defence lawyers, prosecutors or courts operate in a systematically racist way. While it is great that some of the mainstream press has taken up Pora’s cause at the same time they are trying to paint a picture that this is an isolated incident.
The reality is different. Young Maori and Pacific people are more likely to get harassed by police, arrested, charged and convicted than Pakeha. Maori are much less likely to have a lawyer when being questioned and are more likely to be pressured by police into pleading guilty to crimes. While Pora’s case is extreme – the process the police used to get a conviction (a mixture of bribes, intimidation, and fatigue) is widespread.
The fact that Pora was Maori and already had run-ins with the police meant that he was treated as a second class citizen. He had no rights in 1994 and is still in prison today. It is inconceivable for a similar thing to happen to a Pakeha teenager – that is the racist nature of our justice system.
Ironically one of the arguments from the Greens, Labour, and the Police Association about why there must be a inquiry is to uphold the confidence of the public in the justice system. In reality, this injustice exposes the racist criminal injustice system – the more working people draw that conclusion, the better.
This is not the result of a few bad apples in the police force – but a natural outcome of how the modern justice system is created. Therefore any campaign for true justice must go beyond demands for an inquiry, which if successful will merely blame one or two police for what is a systematic problem right from the lowly beat cops all the way up to the top judges and politicians.
Illicit’s fundraising campaign is a good start and should be supported. If Pora’s defence team can get an organisation up and running that can take donations and organise public meetings then some of the pressure can be kept up on the government to free Pora.
Hopefully the campaign will organise public demonstrations against the courts and politicians, this could lay the groundwork for more campaigns against the racist, corrupt justice system we live under. However even if the campaign never gets beyond distributing T-Shirts, there will develop a new movement against the racist oppression meted out by the police and courts – at the moment the face of that movement is Teina Pora.