Sentencing for the 33-year old gay hate murder of an American mathematician at a Sydney gay beat in the 1980s is set to be delivered, ending one family’s relentless fight for justice.
On Tuesday Justice Helen Wilson is due to sentence Scott White who had pleaded guilty to the murder of Scott Johnson in December 1988.
The decision follows an emotional NSW Supreme Court hearing on Monday where family members described the tragedy and heartbreak that the death and following three decades had brought.
“The hateful person who killed Scott has been walking free on this earth for the past 33 years. Thirty-three years that he took away from my baby brother. I believe [White] deserves life in prison,” said Mr Johnson’s sister Terry Johnson.
After the hearing, brother Steve Johnson told reporters that speaking in court was a chance to look White right in the eyes.
“I got to tell [White] what my brother was like. I got to tell him how it felt to hear that he was dead … I have to think it sunk in. He watched and listened,” he said.
Evidence was also given by White’s ex-wife Helen White about a conversation in December 1998 on “poofter bashing” in the 1980s.
“He said the only good poofter is a dead poofter, to which I said, ‘So you threw him off the cliff’. And he said, ‘It’s not my fault the dumb c*** ran off the cliff’,” she said.
Ms White denied contacting police merely to obtain a $1 million reward and fabricating the conversations with her then husband.
White’s legal team is attempting to reduce the sentence, claiming he had a troubled upbringing as a gay man with a homophobic brother, and pointing to mental illness and his vulnerability in prison.
The prosecution points towards the seriousness of the offence and the targeting of Mr Johnson because of his sexuality.
An appeal of White’s conviction has already been filed after his defence team failed to overturn his guilty plea in January.
While the initial 1989 inquest found Mr Johnson’s death was a suicide, the case was reopened in 2012. Another inquest returned an open finding in 2012, but a third in 2017 found Mr Johnson fell from Manly’s North Head clifftops because of violence by an unidentified attacker who perceived him to be gay.