Folbigg review starts – and extends into 2023

Andrew L. Urban.

The much delayed second inquiry into the Kathleen Folbigg murder conviction begins this Monday, November 14, 2022. But in a disgraceful disregard for delivering justice in a timely manner, the inquiry won’t hear crucial evidence regarding the interpretation of her diaries until February 2023. 

The diaries are central to the case, having provided prosecutors an interpretation that – it has been argued – reflects guilt on her part. This is a key contentious issue, second only to the new scientific evidence that has led to this second inquiry.

It is the diaries that played a crucial role in her 2003 guilty conviction for smothering her four infant children. The judge in the 2003 trial of Kathleen Folbigg described the selected diary entries as “chilling”. They cover her thoughts and fears over the decade of 1989 to 1999 when four of her babies die. But they do not contain any admissions of guilt, according to leading US psychologist and linguistic expert James Pennebaker.

Prof Pennebaker, who has worked for the FBI and CIA on criminal cases, developed a computerised text analysis program that can analyse emotional states and reasoning. He ran Folbigg’s diary entries through the program before he read them. “I use that program to analyse her diaries, and I have hundreds of thousands of other texts that we‘ve collected over the years to come up with some kind of comparison, just to get a sense of what was her psychological state over those years,” Prof Pennebaker said. “I cannot find any admissions of guilt. I cannot find any evidence of any premeditation. I cannot find any convincing evidence of any kind of mental illness.”

The program can identify changes in language and thought if a writer is concealing guilt he said. “There are certain kinds of language use that we know occur when a person is concealing something. And they become less personal, more psychologically distant. And, there again, there‘s just no hint of that. And if she were guilty, she would have hidden her tracks in some way, really working to say that she was happy and peppy, and everything’s great. There’s no, there’s just no hints of that,” he said.

The inquiry will first hear compelling evidence on Monday and Tuesday from scientists who discovered the genetic mutation inherited by Sarah and Laura Folbigg was likely to cause cardiac arrhythmias. On Wednesday, Professors Carola Vinuesa and Todor Arsov who first identified the mutation will give their evidence.

The delay in this second review, which NSW Attorney-General Mark Speakman announced in May 2022, are unforgivable, given the very real possibility now, after 19 years in jail, that Folbigg has been wrongfully convicted. Speakman bears responsibility.

 

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7 Responses to Folbigg review starts – and extends into 2023

  1. Don Wakeling says:

    Great that this Inquiry, ordered in May, has now started this month. But the adjourned date with give all personal connected with it , a bit of a break. The 3 months break should do everybody good, except Ms Folbigg who will just continue to exist, hour to hour, in prison. But then, another 3 months is not a matter for serious concern… she’s been there for years and years, hasn’t she. So, on February, a mere 9 months since the Inquiry was ordered by the Governor, some further evidence will be given. Who are the people in government and law who tolerate this.

  2. Suzanne says:

    There is a wide chasm of understanding between science and the public. This chasm translates very quickly into mistrust and/or skepticism. Consider the reception for the Covid vaccine as only a singular example. Indeed this case can prove to be pivotal regarding the reception of scientific information into the legal arena. It means the credibility of science will be on trial as well. The legal system in this case is demonstrating it’s inability to cope with this responsibility. To not take the time to understand the science behind this case is a miscarriage of justice for Folbigg.

  3. Robyn says:

    I think noone will understand the complicated biochemistry. The ones I see in the video are fidgeting and looking bored.

  4. Brian Johnston says:

    We are caught between idiot academics and scholars screwing around with science and idiot juries who cant figure it out.

    The trained people screwing up have to be exposed.

  5. donald wakeling says:

    Yes, shame on Speakman . And total shame on, and disgust for, Reginald Blanch whose addendum to his report declared that, even if two of the deaths were not homicides, he still saw no reason to re-open the Inquiry. Despite his years on the District Court ( criminal) bench, Blanch continued his former DPP mindset…Look only for Guilt ,no matter what the facts are. Blanch was, and is, just another prosecution biased failure, just like the Tasmanian brand that persecuted Sue Neill-Fraser.
    As for Speakman, he’s a mirror image of his Tasmanian counterpart.

  6. Mary says:

    From memory, when I read parts of the diary some time ago, I was thinking that this was a woman who was blaming herself for not being a good mother and making sure her children were alright and therefore she must be “blameworthy”. I felt so sorry for her. She had lost yet another baby and I sensed that she was blaming herself, that in some way she mustn’t be as good as other mothers.

    The only chilling part was that she didn’t seem to have anyone to properly support her through her losses.

    And now that they have found a genetic disability in the children, I hope she will be acquitted. But it all happens very slowly.

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