The Queen and Zac Grieve
|Company||In Films Pty Ltd|
“I take no pleasure in this outcome,” said judge Dean Mildren, sentencing 19-year-old Zak Grieve to
life in prison, with 20 years non parole, in 2013. “It is the fault of mandatory minimum sentencing
provisions, which inevitably bring about injustice.” Following his award-winning podcast series Bowraville for The Australian, Dan Box now focuses on the confronting case of Zak Grieve, a 19-year-old indigenous man convicted for a murder even the judge accepts he did not commit. To tell this baffling story, Dan moves into the Northern Territory town of Katherine, where the contract killing in 2011 of white man Ray Niceforo – whose battered wife paid her son to murder him – has kept the locals talking ever since. Mostly, they talk because the one man who walked away from the plot – Grieve – ended up with the longest jail sentence of all of those involved. Grieve had initially agreed to take part but backed out and wasn’t there when Niceforo died. As Dan gets to know the town and the people involved, he unravels a particularly cruel twist - that the man who wielded the spanner that killed Niceforo received a shorter sentence than Grieve, while Niceforo’s wife, who paid to have him killed, will be eligible for parole this year.
Piecing together exactly what happened, Dan’s journey leads him to question the criminal justice system itself: Is an innocent man in jail? How cruel are the mandatory sentencing laws that forced the judge to send Zak to jail for 20 years without parole? If even the judge says that the law is causing injustice, what does this say about the legal system in
Australia’s far north? And nationwide, how many other people are in jail as a result of similar laws?