Remembering defence lawyer Greg King

by Mike White / 07 January, 2018

Greg King

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Four months after the jury found Ewen Macdonald not guilty of murdering Scott Guy, Greg King took his own life.

Macdonald’s trial had made him a household name, and brought him enormous plaudits, but his successful image masked diabetes complications and serious depression.

Peter Coles says after Macdonald’s trial, King went straight back to work. “He just continued to give his time to people, answer the phone to anybody who was looking for legal help, at the expense of his own health and welfare. There’s not a hell of a lot of people in our trade who go that far for other people, without thought of their own personal and financial advancement.”

 

Garth McVicar, who became a close friend of King’s despite often being on opposite sides of legal debates, says he misses him greatly. “Daily. Yeah, daily. There was nobody in Greg King’s league.”

McVicar remembers on the first day of Macdonald’s trial, King approached him and Kylee Guy and explained how the court worked, and stressed if they had any questions, to just ask him. “Now, that was pretty unique, for a guy who’s defending the alleged killer.”

King’s widow, Catherine Milnes, worked on the case and was present when King delivered his “passionate” closing address. And she says when the verdict was returned, King was just overwhelmed with relief that the jury had put aside prejudice and pressure and understood the arguments the defence had made. “At the end of the day, the evidence just wasn’t there.”

Milnes says defence lawyers are often unfairly characterised as willing to do and say anything to get their clients off, but this misses the vital role they play.

Criminal Bar Association president Len Andersen agrees. “I think it’s fair to say that the public don’t value defence lawyers – unless they’re in trouble.”

Andersen knew King well, and says King’s profile and the cases he took on magnified the pressures on him. While people shop around for the cheapest lawyer when buying a house, they would never dream of doing that if they were accused of something, he says.

“They want the best. And anybody who’s got that sort of reputation – there are stresses that go with it, including the stress to constantly perform. If you don’t say no, you just get completely overwhelmed.

“Greg did, a bit, try to be all things to all people and that made it very difficult for him. But the sad thing was none of us really realised just how unwell he was – he hid it very well.”

WHERE TO GET HELP

If you need support for either yourself or someone you know, get in touch with:

Lifeline 0800 543 354 or 09 522 2999
Suicide Prevention Helpline 0508 828 865 (0508 TAUTOKO)
Youthline 0800 376 633 or free text 234
Samaritans 0800 726 666
Need to talk? Free call or text 1737 anytime for support from a trained counsellor

This was published in the December 2017 issue of North & South.

 

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