1 May 2023

Shooter was 'world's worst hitman' or didn't intend to kill man in drive-by, barrister argues

| Albert McKnight
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selfie of man lying down

Connor John Manns, 25, is facing an ACT Supreme Court jury trial. Photo: Facebook.

The barrister for a shooter in a suburban drive-by has argued his client was either the “world’s worst hitman” or never intended to kill his alleged victim; however, a prosecutor has claimed it was just “pure dumb luck” he hadn’t taken anyone’s life.

Connor John Manns was driving when he used a .25 calibre pistol to fire three shots out of his car’s window while the complainant walked down a street in Casey on 21 November 2021.

He had gotten into an argument with the complainant and their partner and had agreed to meet up with the complainant for what the latter thought would be a fistfight.

The 25-year-old was charged with attempted murder, and jurors in his ACT Supreme Court trial, which started last week, heard while he admitted firing the gun on the street, the question for them was what his intent was at the time.

During the closing submissions on Monday (1 May), barrister James Maher argued jurors could not exclude the possibility that his client had been trying to scare the complainant that night.

“Mr Manns is either the world’s worst hitman, or he didn’t actually intend to kill [the complainant] that night,” he said, noting it was alleged he tried to shoot out of a moving car at a moving target.

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He said if his client intended to kill the complainant, then his attempts to cover his tracks were “nothing if not totally inept”.

Mr Manns had gone shopping afterwards in the same clothes he’d worn at the shooting, had been driving the same car and hadn’t gotten rid of his mobile phone that had numerous messages on it.

However, prosecutor Marcus Dyason alleged it was just “pure dumb luck” Mr Manns hadn’t killed anybody that night and claimed, “the fact the accused is not a killer is not through a lack of trying”.

He argued that messages Mr Manns sent to the complainant and a close friend before and after the shooting would answer the question of intent.

For instance, before the shooting, he told the complainant, “I’ll put nine holes in you …”, “This is war, not a fist fight”, and “I want to see blood”.

Afterwards, he messaged his friend to say, “I tried to kill him last night, times three at the head” and, “His temple was in the sight three times bro, all of them missed”.

Mr Dyason alleged Mr Manns had no reason to lie in those messages.

He also said it wasn’t surprising that Mr Manns had missed the complainant when he fired the gun – he was driving, it was dark and the complainant had been walking – but that didn’t change what he allegedly intended to do.

“When he fired those three shots at [the complainant], he did so with murder on his mind,” he alleged.

When discussing the messages his client had sent, Mr Maher argued, “You wouldn’t trust Mr Manns” because he had a clear track record of being duplicitous or “talking s-t”.

He said before the shooting, the complainant hadn’t appeared to be worried by the threat to put “nine holes” in him and noted how the complainant’s partner had said of Mr Manns, “He’s always lying his way out of something”.

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Mr Dyason said while it might be suggested that Mr Manns had been “big-noting” himself to his friend and had been trying to scare the complainant, jurors should consider how Mr Manns fired two shots in quick succession and then the third after he had done a U-turn and driven back down the street.

He argued this went well beyond a method to scare.

However, only one bullet was recovered and a ballistics expert said it had been fired at a low angle, so Mr Maher said the logical conclusion was that it had been fired at the road or footpath, which was consistent with the argument that he was trying to scare the complainant.

Also, he’d messaged the complainant afterwards saying he had wanted to see him “dance”.

Justice Chrissa Loukas-Karlsson has begun to give her instructions to jurors before they begin their deliberations.

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