Thanks to Andrew Urban in Sydney for drawing this one to my attention. A high profile murder case involving one of America's most well-known political families (the Kennedy's) took a dramatic turn this week when a judge ordered a new trial for Michael Skakel, the nephew of Robert and Ethel Kennedy. See http://edition.cnn.com/2013/10/23/justice/michael-skakel-retrial/index.html. The judge held that the defense attorney during his 2002 trial had been inadequate or "constitutionally deficient". The judge held that the defence of a serious felony prosecution required "attention to detail, an energetic investigation and a coherent plan of defense (capably) executed". The judge also commented that a defendant's constitutional right to adequate representation could not be overshadowed by the inconvenience and financial and emotional cost of a new trial.
Currently attending the annual Asia Pacific Coroners Society conference in sunny, hot and humid Darwin. The conference has attracted around 80 delegates from all over Australia and New Zealand. The delegates are made up of lawyers, Coroners, police officers, forensic pathologists, counsellors etc. There have been some very high quality papers from a range of presenters. There was a presentation yesterday morning by Dr Peggy Dwyer, counsel assisting in the inquest into the police death in custody of Kumanjayi Briscoe in the Alice Springs watch house in January 2012. The NT Police Commissioner, John McRoberts APM (a fellow Assistant Commissioner colleague from WA), gave a very comprehensive presentation on the range of steps that have been taken since this tragic death to prevent future deaths in custody. Dr Ian Freckelton SC gave a very insightful paper on the increasing importance of human rights issues to Coroners. He suggested a range of emerging arguments that would assist in submissions to Coroners on a wide variety of issues.
Special Guest Chester Porter QC to speak on Miscarriage of Justice Issues at Sydney Screening of Shadow of Doubt on 5 November 2013
I am very pleased and honoured to announce that Chester Porter QC has agreed to be our special guest speaker at the Sydney screening of Shadow of Doubt in Sydney on 5 November 2013 at the Palace Chauvel cinema in Paddington. See http://www.palacecinemas.com.au/events/shadowofdoubtqa/
Another very interesting case involving blood evidence, as well as possible non-disclosure and "tunnel vision". Thanks to Civil Liberties Australia for drawing this article from the UK The Guardian to my attention (Eric Allison Sunday 13 October 2013 - http://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2013/oct/13/forensic-evidence-convicted-murder-susan-may).
The documentary Shadow of Doubt by psychologist and film maker Eve Ash about the Sue Neill-Fraser murder conviction here in Tasmania will have VIP screenings in Melbourne and Sydney on 28 October and 5 November 2013, respectively. See http://www.urbancinefile.com.au/home/view.asp?a=19961&s=News_files. We are currently working on screenings in other States of Australia and at key venues. Telstra is kindly supporting the event in Melbourne as part of its Telstra Business Women Alumini program due to the fact that both Eve and I have been Telstra Business Women winners (Eve won the national Business Owner Award and I won WA Telstra Business Woman of the year in 2006). High profile VIP guests will be invited to these events.
Barrister representing victims' families wants independent expert to examine tapes before fresh inquests next year
David Conn Monday 7 October 2013 The Guardian
Thanks to Geraldine for bringing this NZ article to my attention. It is yet another case highlighting concerns with "expert" evidence. See:
In doing some research on the interaction between the Coroner's Court and the Supreme Court, I found this article from The Australian on 28 August 2013 which I had previously missed. See http://www.theaustralian.com.au/news/nation/coroner-overruled-on-murder-case/story-e6frg6nf-1226705322031#. The article reports that the prosecution of a man for the brutal murder of his wife and her closest friend had been shaken after a Supreme Court Judge in Queensland overturned a Coroner's ruling to commit him to trial. (See my previous blog posting on this case for 2 March 2013).
Tonight I am doing a talk to the Bellerive Rotary Club. I have been asked to talk about my new role and some of my current activities. I think it is a good chance to inform people about the nature of legal work and perhaps destroy some of the negative perceptions and stereotypes about lawyers. I hope to regale the audience with a few of my police experiences and war stories, particularly as a woman in a very male-dominated profession. Just thinking about some of my key messages for my talk. I have always said that it is important to "Make a Statement!" in life. At the recent Australasian Council of Women and Policing Conference in Adelaide I was reminded by Christine Nixon, in her panel presentation, of one of our former senior female colleagues who sadly took her own life. She had a well known saying of "Life is too short to drink bad champagne!".
In response to my growing practice in coronial matters and the need for ongoing professional development, I will be attending the next Coroners Conference in Darwin in late October. I attended the Coroners Conference in Sydney in November 2012 and found it very interesting and worthwhile. The final program for the forum is now available at http://www.apcsc.com.au/program-3%20copy.pdf. I am particularly interested in the forensic related presentations and the update on case law in inquests and criminal trials. There is also a fascinating presentation on the Dr Harold Shipman story from the UK and how that case might present as a catalyst for change. Harold Shipman was Britain's most prolific serial killer. According to the public inquiry into his crimes, the former family doctor killed at least 250 of his patients over 23 years. He was convicted in January 2000 of the murder of 15 elderly patients with lethal injections of morphine. A public inquiry was launched in June 2001 to investigate the extent of his crimes, how they went undetected for so long, and what could be done to prevent a repeat of the tragedy. See http://www.theguardian.com/society/2005/aug/25/health.shipman for the results of the inquiry and the numerous reports that were produced, including strategies to prevent such a shocking series of events from ever occurring again.