South Australia’s appeal court flouts the law

Derek Bromley was convicted of murder in 1984, wrongfully, in the opinion of several legal experts; now, his latest appeal (June 2018) flounders when South Australia’s appeal court “fundamentally failed to pay due regard to the rule of law and to the well-established principles governing criminal appeals,” according to legal academics Dr Bob Moles and Bibi Sangha. “The principles espoused in the Bromley decision are not only contrary to established authority but have never before appeared in any legal judgment in Australia, Britain or Canada.”

Moles and Sangha have issued the following briefing note on this latest legal catastrophe in Adelaide, which amounts to a second wrongful conviction of Derek Bromley, already in prison for 35 years.

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Sue Neill-Fraser: ABC crime report fails fact check

Andrew L. Urban

It is disturbing when a crime reporter gets crime reporting wrong, as did Rochelle Jackson on ABC Radio’s Nightlife with Suzanna Hill on June 28, 2018, talking about one of the most important and controversial legal cases currently before the courts: the Sue Neil-Fraser case.

In flagrant disregard of the facts, Jackson misled listeners on a number of issues.

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The Staircase – step by step injustice

By Andrew L. Urban

On a sunny winter Saturday afternoon in Sydney, I started watching The Staircase, thinking I’d spend a couple of hours on it. It was Sunday afternoon, before I finished my binge, only breaking for dinner and sleep. The Staircase is some 13 hours of riveting and disturbing viewing, a slow motion disaster movie in which a man is crushed by the state, the prosecution determined to secure a murder conviction – by fair means or foul.

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Sue Neill-Fraser Support Group – a profile of persistent people power

By Andrew L. Urban, Jennie Herrera, Lynn Giddings

When the Supreme Court in Hobart convenes for the final, crucial session on August 20, 2018, to hear Sue Neill-Fraser seeking leave to appeal against her murder conviction, members of the official Sue Neill-Fraser Support Group Inc. will be there for her, as they have been since even before her controversial murder conviction in October 2010. Who are they? What drives them? How did they coalesce into the determined and persistent citizen army they have remained? What have they achieved?

For those unfamiliar with the Neill-Fraser case, our March 2015 report provides a full background briefing. It is one of several media reports over the years (of them a great many published here on Wrongful Convictions Report), but the extensive, highly visible role of the Sue Neill-Fraser Support Group has never been properly reflected in those reports. In this double-decker feature, Continue reading

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Sue Neill-Fraser – video flashback

There are very substantial doubts about this case … the evidence is so weak …. it is hard to see how any conviction could stand … Tasmania’s legal system risks being a laughing stock, if it wasn’t such a tragedy. The words of Chester Porter QC on the Sue Neill-Fraser case.

Chester Porter QC and Stuart Tipple – both key players in the notorious Lindy Chamberlain miscarriage of justice – were part of the panel discussion* at the only Sydney screening (Chauvel, November 5, 2013), of Shadow of Doubt, Eve Ash’s award winning documentary about the flawed investigation that led to Sue Neill-Fraser’s conviction for the murder of her partner, Bob Chappell.   Continue reading

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Prosecutorial immunity in the hands of psychopaths? A case study

By Andrew L. Urban.

Small time crim John Thompson was nearly executed for a murder he didn’t commit. At his trial in 1985, the New Orleans prosecutors had withheld exculpatory evidence. Then District Attorney – Harry Connick Snr (now retired) – brags about the aggressive, win at all costs culture in his office.

In this New Yorker podcast, we hear him confirm his office is there to get convictions: “that’s what we do”. He chuckles as he recalls that “a lot of defendants weren’t happy with what we were doing,” shrugging off their concerns: “we weren’t there for them – we’re there for those who elected us”. Thompson (below) knows that all too well.

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A law unto themselves, absent model principles

Bill Rowlings* questions how ‘professional’ is the Legal Profession Board of Tasmania. It’s a quango that only recently worked out it needs to abide by model litigant principles, a decade after it was created. And it seems to particularly dislike the right of people to question, scrutinise and dissent.

Barbara Etter** is a lawyer who has been contesting complaints against her that are being investigated by the Legal Profession Board.

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Sue Neill-Fraser – re-reporting from court

By Andrew L. Urban

In her long running appeal against her 2010 murder conviction, Hobart grandmother Sue Neill-Fraser is finding new obstacles, compounded by inaccurate reporting: a fellow prisoner, Stephen Gleeson, has been charged with perverting justice (in her favour). After his hearing on March 23, 2018, the ABC’s Edith Bevan reported that prosecutor “Mr Shapiro told the court Gleeson had a number of visitors to Risdon Prison during 2017. They included Neill-Fraser’s then lawyer Barbara Etter, filmmaker Eve Ash, private detective Colin McLaren and lawyer Jeffrey Thompson.”

Eve Ash wrote to Bevin pointing out that she had never met Gleeson, never visited him in prison. Bevan didn’t reply, but her report on the ABC website was changed to: “Mr Shapiro told the court Gleeson had a number of visitors to Risdon Prison during 2017. They included Neill-Fraser’s then lawyer Barbara Etter, private detective Colin McLaren and lawyer Jeffrey Thompson. Mr Shapiro told the court the private detective was working for documentary filmmaker Eve Ash. Ash did not personally visit Gleeson in prison.”

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Time to end prosecutorial immunity

By Frederick Block *

JABBAR COLLINS languished in jail for over 16 years for a murder he apparently never committed. He was only freed a few years ago when it was revealed at a post-conviction hearing that the main witness at his trial had told the prosecutor that he was pressured by police to lie about Collins’ involvement in the murder.

The prosecutor, representing the Brooklyn District Attorney’s office, never shared that information with Collins’ lawyer—an egregious violation of the law, which requires the government to inform the defense of any exculpatory evidence. At the hearing, the judge who tossed out Collins’ conviction called the conduct of the prosecutor and the DA’s office “shameful” and a “tragedy.”

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Australian democracy not always by the ‘rule of law’

By Andrew L. Urban

In the context of the immigration debate Australia’s Prime Minister (and lawyer of renown), recently extolled the virtues of Australian democracy and its adherence to the ‘rule of law principles’, yet “the criminal appeal system in Australia has failed to comply with its obligations to apply the rule of law,” according to two legal academics, Associate Professor Bibi Sangha and Dr Robert Moles, both of Flinders University, who are calling for an inquiry into ‘abuse of process’ in the system.

“The requirement to ensure that persons accused of criminal offences receive a fair trial and that they also have the right to an effective appeal would hardly be contentious,” they say in a joint statement which claims that Australia is failing its human rights obligations “contained in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights which Australia ratified in 1980.”

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