New Zealand man’s convictions overturned 3 years after death

Oct 6, 2022, 10:41 AM | Updated: Oct 7, 2022, 4:13 am
In this image made from a video, Mark Ellis, left, brother of Peter Ellis, speaks to the media outs...

In this image made from a video, Mark Ellis, left, brother of Peter Ellis, speaks to the media outside a court in Wellington Friday, Oct. 7, 2022. New Zealand’s Supreme Court found there had been a substantial miscarriage of justice after Peter Ellis was convicted of sexually abusing children at the daycare center where he worked as a teacher more than 30 years ago. (TVNZ via AP)

(TVNZ via AP)

WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) — New Zealand’s Supreme Court on Friday took the unusual step of overturning a man’s convictions even though he died three years ago.

The court found there had been a substantial miscarriage of justice after Peter Ellis was convicted of sexually abusing children at the daycare center where he worked as a teacher more than 30 years ago.

Usually appeals end once a complainant dies. But in this case, the court found it was in the interests of justice for the appeal to continue even after Ellis died from cancer in 2019 at age 61.

When Ellis was first put on trial in 1993, it was against a global backdrop of concern about satanic ritual abuse.

The case against him relied on the recollections of very young children, and many questioned its merits from the outset. Some believed the fact he was openly gay worked against him.

Ellis was convicted in 1993 on 16 counts of sexual abuse against seven children who attended the Christchurch daycare center. He spent seven years in prison and always maintained his innocence.

The Supreme Court found the evidence of prosecution witness Karen Zelas, a psychiatrist who supervised the interviews of the children, lacked balance and suffered from circular reasoning.

The court found Zelas failed to inform the jury of other possible explanations for behaviors among the children that ranged from bedwetting and sleeping problems to sexualized behavior.

The court also found Zelas hadn’t fully explained the risk that the children’s evidence had been contaminated, for instance by their parents, who had met with each other before the trial.

Ellis’ brother, Mark Ellis, told reporters that the decision had been a long time coming.

“I wish my brother was here, because it was really what he deserved,” he said.

However, the parents of some of the children Ellis was accused of abusing said they were “shocked and saddened” by the decision and that the court had favored a criminal over the victims.

One unusual argument made by Ellis’ lawyers was that under Indigenous Maori customs and values, a person’s “mana” — their prestige and stature — continues after they die. Ellis himself wasn’t Maori but the court accepted the argument could apply to any New Zealander.

While the argument didn’t end up being a decisive factor, the court found it supported and strengthened its conclusion that the appeal should continue after Ellis’ death.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


FILE - A Boeing 747-8, Boeing's new passenger plane, takes its first flight, Sunday, March 20, 2011...
Associated Press

Boeing’s last 747 to roll out of Washington state factory

After more than half a century, Boeing is set to roll its last 747 out of a Washington state factory on Tuesday.
1 day ago
The mother and father of a four-month-old baby that urgently needs a heart operation leave the High...
Associated Press

New Zealand court rules against anti-vax parents of ill baby

WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) — A New Zealand court temporarily took away medical custody of a baby from his parents on Wednesday after they refused blood transfusions for him unless the blood came from donors who were unvaccinated against COVID-19. The court’s ruling in favor of health authorities places the 4-month-old boy into the guardianship […]
1 day ago
A sunken vehicle sit in the Mesaieed sea-line at the GMC dive site in Mesaieed, Qatar Wednesday, No...
Associated Press

AP PHOTOS: World Cup fans explore Qatar’s artificial reefs

MESAIEED, Qatar (AP) — Thirty feet (9 meters) deep into the waters of the Persian Gulf, angel fish swim in and out of rusted trucks and SUVs. Plastic bags and water bottles, blown in from the nearby shoreline, float across the ocean floor. World Cup fans in Qatar hoping to see some of the Gulf’s […]
1 day ago
Associated Press

Train collision in Spain hurts 155, no serious injuries

BARCELONA, Spain (AP) — Two trains collided near Barcelona early Wednesday, injuring 155 people but none seriously, Spanish officials said. Emergency services for Catalonia said that although three people were taken to medical centers none of the passengers was considered seriously hurt. No further details on the nature of the injuries were given by officials. […]
1 day ago
FILE- An election commission staff separates ballot papers to count a day after the general electio...
Associated Press

Nepal votes counted, but new government could take days

KATHMANDU, Nepal (AP) — Nepal has finished counting the votes that were cast in the Nov. 20 parliamentary elections, an election official said Wednesday, in polls that will ultimately determine the next prime minister. But formation of a new government could take days as no single party has secured a majority in the House of […]
1 day ago
People walk past the New York Stock Exchange on Wednesday, June 29, 2022 in New York. Stocks are op...
Associated Press

Asia stocks lower as China scales back many COVID curbs

Shares fell in Asia on Wednesday with Hong Kong’s benchmark down more than 2% even as Beijing announced it was drastically scaling back its “zero-COVID” policies, shifting away from trying to isolate every single case. The Hang Seng index in Hong Kong fell 2.5% to 18,949.24 and the Shanghai Composite index was down 0.4% at […]
1 day ago

Sponsored Articles

Comcast Ready for Business Fund...
Ilona Lohrey | President and CEO, GSBA

GSBA is closing the disparity gap with Ready for Business Fund

GSBA, Comcast, and other partners are working to address disparities in access to financial resources with the Ready for Business fund.

Medicare open enrollment is here and SHIBA can help!

The SHIBA program – part of the Office of the Insurance Commissioner – is ready to help with your Medicare open enrollment decisions.
Lake Washington Windows...

Choosing Best Windows for Your Home

Lake Washington Windows and Doors is a local window dealer offering the exclusive Leak Armor installation.
Anacortes Christmas Tree...

Come one, come all! Food, Drink, and Coastal Christmas – Anacortes has it all!

Come celebrate Anacortes’ 11th annual Bier on the Pier! Bier on the Pier takes place on October 7th and 8th and features local ciders, food trucks and live music - not to mention the beautiful views of the Guemes Channel and backdrop of downtown Anacortes.
Swedish Cyberknife Treatment...

The revolutionary treatment of Swedish CyberKnife provides better quality of life for majority of patients

There are a wide variety of treatments options available for men with prostate cancer. One of the most technologically advanced treatment options in the Pacific Northwest is Stereotactic Body Radiation Therapy using the CyberKnife platform at Swedish Medical Center.
Work at Zum Services...

Seattle Public Schools announces three-year contract with Zum

Seattle Public Schools just announced a three-year contract with a brand-new company to the Pacific Northwest to assist with their student transportation: Zum.
New Zealand man’s convictions overturned 3 years after death