Emerald man guilty of manslaughter of housemate

EMERALD man David John Cooper was yesterday found guilty of the manslaughter of his housemate, Ernest James Peterson.

A Supreme Court jury found Cooper guilty of one charge of manslaughter but not guilty of murder after he killed his housemate with a sledgehammer on April 8, 2013, after an alcohol-fuelled argument broke out in the New St home in Emerald.

Mr Peterson died after Cooper struck him in the chest with the sledgehammer which fractured several of his ribs and punctured his lungs.

The court heard that Cooper and Mr Peterson often got along and that they had both been drinking the afternoon of the incident when an argument started.

A recount of a witness statement was read to the court yesterday that indicated Cooper and Mr Peterson were seen talking and standing together half an hour after the incident took place but that the group of people at the residence became concerned for Mr Peterson later in the evening and called an ambulance.

Mr Peterson passed away the following morning as a result of his injuries.

The jurors left the court room at 10.30am for deliberation but returned just hours later with a verdict.

Before the jurors deliberated, Justice Duncan McMeekin warned them to consider Cooper's intent at the time of the blow and to understand the difference between murder and manslaughter.

"The difference between murder and manslaughter is intent," Justice McMeekin said.

"As the jury, you need to consider whether he intended to harm Mr Peterson with the blow that, as a result, caused fatal injuries."

After the verdict was delivered in Rockhampton, Justice McMeekin, who described the incident as a "sad case", sentenced Cooper to seven and a half years in prison.

"You admitted by your plea that you had unlawfully killed Mr Peterson but not with intent," Justice McMeekin said to Cooper.

"It was not protracted; there was the one significant blow. Witness accounts from ambulance officers suggest you expressed your love and concern for Mr Peterson when they were there.

"It's a sad case without a doubt."

Cooper will be eligible for parole on December 9, 2015, as a result of 842 days already served in prison.

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