The Dawson verdict – good news guilty / bad news innocent

Chris Dawson yesterday convicted of murdering his then wife Lyn, 40 years ago. Derek Bromley wrongfully convicted of murder almost 40 years ago – still in jail. Sue Neill-Fraser wrongfully convicted of murder 13 years ago – still in jail … Robert Xie wrongfully arrested for murder 13 years ago – still in jail. Robert Farquharson wrongfully convicted of murdering his three young sons 13 years ago – still in jail …. etc 

That’s why some of us can’t help but look behind the outpouring of public cheering, the headlines, and the welcome, long delayed closure for the family of Lyn Dawson. And looking behind all that leads us to the forlorn realisation that our society is quick to celebrate catching the criminal but slow to demand justice for the wrongfully accused and convicted innocent.

Once convicted, the accused loses their ‘voice’, their rights and much of their access to family, friends and to properly help clear their name. Public attention is largely turned OFF. The entire legal system turns its back, making it virtually impossible to have the injustice corrected – certainly not quickly or with any sense of urgency.

We make these observations without in any way denigrating or minimising the Dawson verdict and all the work that led to it, especially by The Australian’s Hedley Thomas.

Note: Bromley, Neill-Fraser, Xie and Farquharson are examples of those still considered properly found guilty by the legal system but who we regard as wrongfully convicted after careful consideration of all the evidence – and the benefit of legal advice not available to a jury.

These are just some of the people who maintained that they had been wrongly convicted and were eventually vindicated.

dingo photo by Bobby Tamayo

Lindy Chamberlain
Henry Keogh
Edward Splatt
Andrew Mallard
Gordon Wood
Jeffrey Gilham
Scott Austic
David Eastman
John Button
Darryl Beamish
Mickelberg Brothers
Gene Gibson
Roseanne Beckett
Douglas Harry Rendell
Fred McDermott
Colin Ross (hanged)
Farah Jama
‘Kipper Billy’ (1861)
Frank Button
Graham Stafford
Laurie Stevens
Darren Smith

Source: Dr Bob Moles, Flinders University

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10 Responses to The Dawson verdict – good news guilty / bad news innocent

  1. Don Wakeling says:

    Even when conducted by the most able experienced and highly motivated Judge in the criminal law, how can we be assured that the judge of the law can divorce his mind from inadmissable facts, or, opinions, to the certain degree that he is not, though totally unintended, to be affected by on coming to a decision ?
    . The applause given by some to the detail of his reasoning by Harrison J is no doubt as well intended as we’re His Honour’s lengthy deliberations.
    How can we ever be comfortable that all Judges of law will , intentionally or otherwise, make correct findings of fact or give established facts their proper weight?

    • Phillip Chapman says:

      Judge Harrison meticulously dismissed, individually, each one of several “sightings” of Lynn Dawson after 9 December. What he should have considered is whether, taken together, ALL the sightings were false. That is a slightly different exercise. Suppose there had been 100 sightings. Surely that would establish a reasonable possibility of Lynn being alive. The question is: where do you draw the line? Doing the math, (lawyers, please leave the room), it turns out that just 2 or 3 sightings (each one false beyond reasonable doubt) are enough to establish the legal standard of “reasonable possibility”.
      It may even be likely that Chris killed his wife, but it wasn’t 8-9 December as the charge maintains.

  2. Don Wakeling says:

    Whilst reflecting on the convictions based on “circumstantial” evidence, or facts invented by a trial judge, I am informed by the Tasmanian Supreme Court, that Blows CJ is still presiding over Jury Trials in criminal cases. Is this a cause for concern to Defendants and their legal representatives?

  3. Brian Johnston says:

    Why is Martin Bryant and Bradley Murdoch absent from the above list?
    Montana Innocence Project has obtained the release of eight people since 2008.
    Moles has only succeeded in having one guilty person released.

    It is very difficult in helping the likes of Sue when arguing points of truth. Once locked up she has to stay there. Only tactics will get Sue out.
    Lindy Chamberlain was lucky the matinee jacket turned up. If it hadn’t I guess she would have gone full term.

    • John S says:

      Not sure about Bryant, though he wasn’t tried nor convicted due to mental incapacity. There’s only so much Bob Moles can do, it’s not up to him to overturn convictions, he can only put up the case.

      I think you’re right about poor Lindy, that jacket was a God-send for her early release, I recall the prosecution sarcastically casting doubt on it’s existence. Same happened to Michael Peterson (prosecutor mocking lack of the fire poker, until it showed up months later – see The Staircase).

  4. Peter Martin says:

    To a lay person it is easy to agree that he had murdered his wife, but the using circumstantial evidence alone by a Judge alone doesn’t sit well with me.

    • David Dickman says:

      One of reasonable mind could concur in many circumstances. However the precedents have been set by the Court in the matter of there”not being a body” with the following cases coming to mind. Sue Neill-Fraser, Mathew Leveson. Thus future judges may rely on these to precedents to gain a conviction. There is generally a motive for murder. In Neill-Fraser non was produced nor was any hard evidence involving Sue nor was a body. In the Dawson matter motivation was a strong primeval instinct of being deprived of sex with a young woman on his part along with violence towards the deceased and their deteriorating marriage. As in all murder accusations and criminal matters deep and balanced thought is required on the part of those with the power to convict. Sue Neill-Fraser did not get that right. Dawson without perusing all evidence I am not sure.

  5. Roland says:

    I am so so concern that circumstantial evidence been abused, the court became “the market” that good sales person can sell under quality product to the mass as long as they have super sales skills and the quality products could not be accepted not because of product itself.

    So it’s unfair our legal system keep using circumstantial evidence to convict criminal suspect.

  6. Keith says:

    How do we get Hedley Thomas onto the job? Despite the heroic efforts of multiple people who have given their considerable time, money and effort into this case, we still can’t get an outcome that is just and fair. What will it take to get through to this seriously compromised government? What are they afraid of?

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