Wednesday, 6 August 2008

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.

Justice Graham Barr has told the court that after four days of the trial a solicitor from the Macquarie Radio Network informed him that 2GB broadcaster Jason Morrison received phone call from a woman who stated she was a juror for the trial.

He said the woman told Mr Morrison some jurors were planning to go to The Gap, in Sydney's east, to conduct their own investigation.

Justice Barr questioned the 12 jurors individually, as well as Jason Morrison and an employee from the sheriff's officer.

Justice Barr said he is convinced a juror made the call but he cannot prove which one.

He said the current jury would now find it difficult to do its job.

A new trial date for Gordon Wood, who remains on bail, has been set for August 25.

Updated: 2:04pm (AEST)

Jury member contacted a journalist to say there was a bully on the panel.

For the past few days Justice Barr has been investigating whether a female juror contacted a radio journalist to seek advice about a bully on the jury who was encouraging other members of the jury to undertake their own investigation by visiting the murder scene at night.

GB broadcaster Jason Morrison, who is filling in for Alan Jones, has told the court that last Thursday at 9.20am, after he was off air, he received a call from a woman who claimed to have met him in the past. She said she was a juror in the Gordon Wood case.

Alarmed, the broadcaster told the woman she should not be speaking to him about the case. The woman then said that she only wanted advice as there was a "woman on the jury who is quite a bully".

This woman had already made her mind up about the case, said the caller, and was urging jurors to go to The Gap that night to conduct their own investigation.

When Justice Barr was informed of the conversation on Thursday afternoon, after the trial had finished for the week, he ordered the Sheriff's office to contact the jury and to warn them that they were not to go to The Gap to conduct their own inquiries.

Sheriff's officer Brian Murray has told the court that, by 6.40pm that night, he had contacted each member of the jury and had relayed the judge's message.

When the trial recommenced on Monday morning each juror was questioned separately as to whether he or she had called the journalist, had any knowledge of any other juror calling the journalist or was aware of any plan to conduct a private investigation at The Gap.

One by one, the seven women and five men of the jury told the court, under oath, that they knew nothing.

Listening at the back of the court was Morrison, who later said that the 11th juror had sounded similar to the woman who had called him but that he could not be positive.

After hearing the jurors' denials, Crown prosecutor Mark Tedeschi, QC, urged the judge not to dismiss the jury as there was no evidence of misconduct on the part of any jury member and that it was likely to have been a hoax call by a "person intending to cause this trial to come to an end".

Mr Tedeschi said, "This court should not be held hostage to some malevolent member of the public." He also said that, as far as the administration of criminal justice was concerned, there would be very severe consequences if a member of the public could hold the judicial system to ransom.

Winston Terracini, SC, counsel for Wood, said that, as the judge could not be reasonably satisfied the call was a hoax, there would be "grave feelings of disquiet" if the trial was to continue with the present jury.

Despite the Crown's submission that the call was a hoax, the judge concluded the caller was a juror.

I will continue to maintain my innocence: Wood

Afterwards, Wood said: "We are very grateful for those people who have come forward, particularly the sheriff and radio broadcaster Jason Morrison and hopefully, at our next trial, where I will continue to maintain my innocence as I have always done, the jurors will abide by the judge's direction.

"This has been very stressful for me because these allegations have been around now for many, many years and I want my case finalised."

The Crown did not wish to comment on today's discharge of the jury.

Quote: If the jury are not playing Sudoku they're contacting the media? Makes you also wonder if the Judge wasn't just fussy about the particular jury? Why not prove who the alleged juror was that was alleged to have made the call to 2GB? Why not get that off 2GB? Release the judge? This could be big brother calling the shots? In anycase how can this person get a fair trial? The matters, opposed to the more obvious suicide of Caroline Byrne, including extraordinary events plastered all over the media, like the alleged javelin throwing of Caroline Byrne's body by Gordon Wood, 11 odd metres and conspiracy theories about Rene Rivkin and Offset Alpine amongst other things, have been published time and time again. The fact that any potential juror must have formed some bias and a view based on media reports would be an understatement.


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.

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