Keogh murder trial abandoned – as was justice

By Andrew L. Urban.

South Australian DPP Adam Kimber has abandoned his attempt to re-try Henry Keogh for the 1994 murder of Keogh’s late girlfriend Anna-Jane Cheney, claiming his reason that a key witness is too ill. At first he didn’t name the witness; later the witness was named as Dr Colin Manock, the disgraced former head of forensic pathology in SA. A little later still, Dr Manock is reported to have told a friend by phone that he was ‘fit as a fiddle’.

Kimber said in a statement, issued in the afternoon of Friday 13, November: “I concluded that essential matters would not be able to be proved unless the witness was called. I came to the view that there was no reasonable prospect of conviction without the witness.”

As Civil Liberties Australia reports, “Manock headed the forensic science service in SA for about 30 years from 1968 until his retirement in late 1995, originally with no formal forensic pathology qualification, later with a questionable certificate provided by a professional association basically because he was the head man.

“Over those three decades, forensic science expanded worldwide like no other branch of police or legal work.

“Manock is believed to have handled more than 10,000 cases: about 400 involved alleged murders, including dozens where convictions were secured. In many other cases, Manock’s findings may have allowed guilty people to go free, including in three cases of possible “battered baby” syndrome.

“Criticisms of Manock by his peers and lawyers over the years have included words like “unqualified”, “unreliable”, “dogmatic”, and “incompetent”. The High Court has used words like “discredited”, “speculative” and “unsupported by cogent evidence” in relation to him and his findings. A Royal Commission found his approach to an Indigenous death in custody to be “inappropriate” and his explanation “inadequate”. Manock has recanted key evidence he gave in some trials, including in that of Keogh.

“These facts make it hard to fathom why SA DPP Kimber would ever have perceived Manock as a “key witness” in a proposed re-trial of Keogh.”

Nobody other than Kimber could have thought there was any prospect whatsoever of the murder being proved.

Perhaps Kimber himself didn’t really think there was any prospect of a conviction, either; perhaps he had announced his intention (in March 2015) to try Keogh in the wake of Keogh’s successful appeal out of bravado; perhaps he had set the date of March 2016 so he could take his time to appear to be doing his best to put together a case before abandoning it; perhaps he thought everyone in the South Australian justice system (and wherever else this extraordinary case if being watched) would forget the complete destruction of Dr Manock’s credibility as an expert witness; perhaps Kimber was just being nasty, adding yet another layer of discomfort to Keogh’s 20 years in jail for a crime of which he has now been formally cleared.

Perhaps it is Adam Kimber who should be investigated, along with the whole sorry South Australian justice system, as Civil Liberties Australia suggests.

Civil Liberties Australia says “the Crown in SA knew the likelihood that there was no murder – that the death was possibly, even probably an accident – as early as 2004. At least, if the justice system in SA had been functioning properly, the state’s Solicitors-General and Attorneys-General since 2004 should have known: an expert forensic report they themselves commissioned told them so. The report described a forensic test they could run to prove death was not deliberate by a handgrip, as described by Manock. The Crown failed to undertake that test.

“The Crown also failed to give a copy of the report to Keogh, as legal rules required them to do. He languished in jail for a further 10 years, innocent, desperately trying to get his case back before an appeals court.”

Civil Liberties Australia reports: “Speaking in response to questions on 13 November 2015, on the afternoon the DPP withdrew the case against Keogh, Dr Robert Moles said he spoke briefly with Mr Keogh soon after the story broke at 11.20am on advertiser.com.au (Dr Moles is a legal academic who specializes in miscarriages of justice and has followed the Keogh acse closely.) “We didn’t know that there was going to be any announcement before the court hearing this afternoon. So when we saw the item come up on The Advertiser website we were very, very pleased to see that it is now public information.

“There of course will be immense implications for the other cases that have involved the forensic pathologist in Henry’s case and I would like to think there would be a formal inquiry set up fairly soon to find out what’s been going on behind all of this.”

Within five days of the decision to abandon the trial, Network 7’s Adelaide based Today Tonight current affairs program ran a story on the case, including footage of question time in Parliament, where it was raised – but not satisfactorily dealt with.

Civil Liberties Australia says “the state government should now launch a Royal Commission into the state of justice in SA, covering:

  • matters surrounding the Keogh and other questionable cases, including the non-charging of possible murderers, resulting from findings and evidence provided by Forensic Science SA and its predecessors;
  • forensic science examinations, findings and evidence given in courts, tribunals and the like by Dr Colin Manock and state forensic science staff from 1968 to the present (including cases interstate where the SA forensic science services undertook examinations for external bodies, such as the NT government and its agencies, the Australian Federal Police, etc);
  • actions, and inactions, by the Solicitors-General of SA, the Attorneys-General of SA, and other state entities involved in handling the legal appeals and petitions for mercy made by Henry Keogh and others between 1968 and the present;
  • the ability or otherwise of professional tribunals, such as (but not only) those in forensics, medicine and law, to adequately “police” their professions and the members of them, including their speedy ability to prevent members continuing to operate in the profession, to protect the public, if adverse findings arise;
  • the actions and inactions of the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions in relation to the Keogh case and any other relevant cases; and
  • any other matters relevant to the above.

Civil Liberties Australia believes there will be lessons for other states and territories in what the SA Royal Commissions finds.”

 

 

 

 

 

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