A cognitively impaired Aboriginal man jailed for killing a 21-year-old man in Western Australia's north claims he gave a false confession because his lawyer said he'd get a longer jail term if he pleaded not guilty.
Gene Gibson, who is from the remote desert community of Kiwirrkurra and speaks the Pintupi dialect, is serving seven-and-a-half years behind bars for fatally striking Josh Warneke from behind as he walked home from a night out in Broome in 2010.
A series of flawed police interviews more than two years later were deemed inadmissible, forcing prosecutors to drop a murder charge and accept Gibson's guilty plea to manslaughter.
Gibson's conviction is being appealed on the basis he suffered a miscarriage of justice because he did not have the cognitive ability or language skills to understand what was happening.
The 25-year-old testified in the WA Court of Appeal on Tuesday that he wanted to plead guilty after his lawyer Dominic Brunello told him to and warned him several people had made statements against him.
Gibson said he couldn't recall if he told Mr Brunello during that prison visit, when an interpreter wasn't present, that he didn't commit the crime.
When the case proceeded to entering a formal plea and Gibson met Mr Brunello and interpreter Robert Nanala before the court appearance, he was told he'd serve about nine years compared with about 20 years if he tried to fight the charge.
"I wanted to say not guilty but if you say not guilty, you get long time but if you say guilty, you get small time," Gibson said through a different interpreter.
"If I said not guilty, I would have got a long sentence.
"I was listening to what he was saying."
Gibson was asked when he first told Mr Brunello he preferred to plead not guilty, admitting he couldn't remember and it could have been after sentencing.
The court also heard from Mr Nanala, who speaks four Aboriginal languages as well as English.
Mr Nanala said Gibson was happy to see him before he entered his plea, but was "really quiet".
He recalled Mr Brunello telling his client he would get five to seven years behind bars if he pleaded guilty to manslaughter.
Mr Nanala testified the lawyer then said: "If you do not plead guilty, you'll be going for a long, long time."
Mr Brunello is expected to give evidence at the hearing on Wednesday.