Andrew L. Urban.
On reading the story of the High Court’s refusal to grant leave to Derek Bromley’s appeal, reader Peter Gill writes: “Reminds me of this article about the High Court’s disgraceful 3-2 stuff-up in the Lindy Chamberlain High Court appeal.” He references an article about that case by Crispin Hill of the Canberra Times from 2017, leading Hill to question jury trials.
Crispin Hill: I reported the Federal Court appeal and the High Court appeal, but not the trial. I was utterly convinced that Lindy was guilty. In the Federal Court, I was completely taken with prosecutor Ian Barker’s “rope” argument. He argued that an individual strand of a rope was not enough. But when you added a little strand of scientific evidence with another and yet another, you had enough rope to prove guilt.
There were eight pieces of scientific evidence each pointing to guilt which Barker said that when taken together were proof of guilty. A bit like “Silent Witness”. All convincingly damning stuff, especially the foetal blood bit.
Shattered my faith in juries
For me, after Azaria’s matinee jacket had been found six years later near a dingo’s lair and Lindy rightly exonerated, the case quite shattered my faith in the jury system and warned me against the legal establishment’s faith in it too.
Plucking 12 people from the street to decide criminal cases without any obligation to give reasons for their decision is idiocy.
The system is almost rigged against good outcomes. Wise older people with time on their hands and a willingness to be diligent are excluded. Smart business and professional people who would make good jurors get themselves excluded because they are smart enough to do so, or the jury Acts specifically exclude them.
So the rest decide, unconstrained by any requirement to give even oral reasons for their decision which might make them more diligent and help us understand if the system works or whether it acquits too many guilty people and convicts the innocent.
We are not allowed access to deliberations (even for research decades later). Who knows. We could have had a “pub test”. It goes along the lines: “Yeah, mate, we know dingoes don’t take babies so she must have done it.”
Complexity, nuance, and detailed analysis of evidence of the sort done by judges in civil trials may have little bearing on the 12 randomly chosen.
As if to make the point about juries, while I was preparing this article, it was reported in the New York Times on December 16, 2023 that Rudy Giuliani has been ordered by a Federal court jury to pay US$148 (A$220.73) million damages to two electoral officers wrongfully accused by him of having tried to steal votes from Donald Trump in Georgia.
Also while preparing this article, I received a summons for jury duty in January 2024.