Man who shot corpse jailed for attempted murder in Australia

'He was twitching, I felt sorry for him,' the defendant has said at his trial

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The Independent Online

A man has been jailed for attempted murder after shooting a corpse twice.

In what has been described as a case with "an air of unreality", a man has been sentenced to eight years by an Australian supreme court for shooting a man believed already to be dead after a gun accidentally went off.

Daniel James Darrington was fighting over the gun with Rocky Matskassy in a house when it went off, reportedly killing Mr Matskassy in the struggle, according to The Australian.

As the man lay there, Darrington is then believed to have fired a second and third shot into the 31-year-old. He said he thought Mr Matskassy was just about alive and so shot him out of pity.

The defendant from Melbourne was found guilty not of murder, because his target was already dead, but of attempted murder because he crucially believed his target still to be alive and yet still chose to shoot him.

The crown and defence said at a plea hearing last year that they could not think of another case like it.

Rocky Matskassy, who was in a fight with Daniel Darrington before the latter shot him

In his own defence, Darrington told a psychologist he thought Mr Matskassy was on the edge of death and he had shot him to put him out of his misery.

"I was like a robot," the 39-year-old said according to The Australian.

"He was twitching, I felt sorry for him. So I shot him, twice. I wish it had never happened."

Yet the judge said the jury could not be sure beyond reasonable doubt that Mr Matskassy had been alive when he shot him, and that the second and third bullets showed a determination on Darrington's part to ensure Mr Matskassy was dead. This intent meant the charge was upgraded from manslaughter.

The pair had begun arguing and then physically fighting while at an associate's house in a suburb of Melbourne in March 2014.

Darrington's defence said he told a bloodied Mr Matskassy to go and clean himself up in the bathroom and that when the man returned he was holding a gun. After a struggle, Mr Matskassy was accidentally shot.

The trial heard that it could not know for certain who first brought the gun out, nor whether Mr Matskassy was killed by the accidental shot or by Darrington's second and third shot.

Saying he accepted the difficulty of sentencing in such a case, Justice Coughlan jailed Darrington for eight years for attempted murder, with a non-parole period of five years.

"There is an air of unreality about the case," he said.

Australia is believed to have some of the most comprehensive gun laws in the world, following extensive reform in response to the Port Arthur shootings of 1996.

All six Australian states banned semi-automatic rifles and shot guns, and made it more difficult for prospective gun owners to obtain a licence.

There have been no mass shootings since, and rates of homicide and suicide have also reduced, according to the New York Times.