Thursday, 7 August 2008

Jury system defended after trial aborted

Allegedly a female juror was bullying the others and had already decided Wood was guilty of murder...

NSW Attorney-General John Hatzistergos has defended the "sanctity" of the jury system, despite the high profile trial of Gordon Wood being aborted after allegations jurors planned to visit the alleged crime scene.

The murder trial was sensationally aborted on Wednesday after claims of a bullying juror and plans for a forbidden visit to The Gap in eastern Sydney, where the body of Wood's girlfriend Caroline Byrne was found in 1995.

Justice Graham Barr discharged the jury of seven women and five men after concluding at least one member had engaged in "misconduct".

The errant juror came to the court's attention after Radio 2GB broadcaster Jason Morrison received an off-air phone call last Thursday from a woman saying she was on the jury.

Despite his attempts to end the call, the woman said some jurors planned to have a private visit to The Gap that night.

She also said a female juror was bullying the others and had already decided Wood was guilty of murder - despite the trial being less than a week old.

All 12 jurors denied making the call when questioned in court, forcing Justice Barr to discharge the whole jury.

Mr Hatzistergos on Thursday expressed sympathy for the Byrne family but defended the jury system as an "enduring aspect of our criminal justice system".

"I suppose in this day and age, with the kind of scrutiny that the jury system is under ... and the availability of modern means of communication, in particular the internet, there is a great temptation for some persons to want to take the process into their own hands," he said.

"But it is very important that we preserve the sanctity of the jury, and the jury judges the evidence on the basis of what is presented in the court room within their sight and observation, and which is tested by the parties.

"It is important to recognise that the concept of trial by jury ... is an ancient and most enduring aspect of our criminal justice system."

Laws prohibited jurors from conducting their own investigations, Mr Hatzistergos said.

"The law prohibits them from doing so and, indeed, there is a penalty of up to two years imprisonment should that be found to occur," he said.

"Moreover they are given instructions both through induction material provided by the sheriff, instructions by the trial judge and moreover a handbook.

"Obviously, this is a difficult case, bearing in mind the precise source of the misconduct could not be identified, bearing in mind no juror would come forward and detail what was apparently detailed to one of the sheriff's officers."

A new jury of 15, instead of the usual 12 members, is expected to be empanelled on August 25.


Rogue juror: Wood trial aborted

The jury in the trial of Gordon Wood, the man accused of murdering model Caroline Byrne by throwing her off The Gap, has been discharged.

The game's up: jurors playing Sudoku
AFTER 105 witnesses and three months of evidence, a drug trial costing $1 million was aborted yesterday when it emerged that jurors had been playing Sudoku since the trial's second week.

Crime files reviewed under new law
South Australian police are reviewing as many as 10 old criminal cases, as double jeopardy [draconian] law takes effect.

Burrell to appeal again over Whelan murder
The High Court has ordered the New South Wales Court of Criminal Appeal to re-hear an appeal by convicted murderer Bruce Burrell.

Burrell sentenced to life for Whelan murder?
In his defence, his lawyers argued that the prosecution case was based on speculative and intrinsically flawed circumstantial evidence. What's more, Bruce Burrell's lawyers pointed out there wasn't a shred of forensic evidence linking him to the crime. Not a single hair, not even a microscopic trace of Kerry Whelan's DNA was ever found, despite extensive searches of his cars and property. [But the jury's guilty verdict demonstrates that a strong circumstantial case can be sufficient to ensure a conviction?

TRIAL BY MEDIA! or trial by a Jury?
Once a person is charged there should be a media black ban on that case until a jury has found the person either guilty or not guilty. If the media have the power to elect our political parties then they also have the power to find people guilty. Especially people who are being tried over and over again. Now with no double jeopardy rules and majority verdicts in NSW then high profile cases have become susceptible to being tried by the media and not by the jury in my humble opinion.

Mouse Trap Game? Tried Until Guilty!
Two New South Wales Labor MPs have strongly criticised the Carr Government's proposed abolition of the 800 year old double jeopardy rule, which stops people being tried a second time for the same crime. The left-wing MPs have branded the reforms as dishonest and unjust in a formal submission to the Attorney-General's department.

No comments: