COVID may delay murder-accused cop's trial

·2-min read

The trial of a Northern Territory constable accused of murdering an Indigenous man during an arrest could be delayed due to COVID-19.

Zachary Rolfe, 29, is accused of murdering Kumanjayi Walker, 19, who was shot three times in the remote community of Yuendumu in November 2019.

He's scheduled to stand trial on July 26 but much of the Crown's interstate prosecution team can't get into the NT without quarantining.

They're in NSW where another 27 new local COVID-19 cases were recorded on Wednesday and the lockdown for Greater Sydney was extended until at least July 16.

"We all wish this situation didn't exist but it does, we are trapped by it unfortunately," Philip Strickland SC told the NT Supreme Court.

"I live in the Waverley area which is regarded as one of the hotspots."

The prosecutor told the court he'd applied on June 24 for an exemption to travel to the NT for a July 19 pre-trial hearing but had heard nothing back from the Top End's COVID management team.

That hearing will go ahead via an audio visual link.

As will the evidence from about 15 police officers and three expert defence witnesses based in the US if the trial proceeds a week later.

Defence team solicitor Luke Officer suggested Mr Strickland and Sophie Callan SC come to the NT by Monday and quarantine to ensure the trial can start as scheduled.

But Mr Strickland said he doesn't have time to isolate in Darwin.

The trial is expected to run for four weeks, with Mr Strickland saying there had been "considerable cooperation and coordination" between the Crown and Rolfe's defence team.

"We have substantial agreed facts between us that will definitely reduce court time," he said.

"That will obviate the need to call a number of witnesses ... (but) issues of jury deliberation are hard to anticipate."

Canberra-based Rolfe, who remains on bail, is already in the NT, Mr Officer said.

A decision about whether the trial will proceed on July 26 will be further discussed at the July 19 pre-trial hearing.

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