Viewing entries posted in August 2013
When I was at the Australian Academy of Forensic Sciences (AAFS) Expert Evidence Forum in Sydney last weekend, the High Court decision in Aytugrul v The Queen was mentioned in the context of DNA evidence (Aytugrul v The Queen  HCA 15 (18 April 2012)). The decision was on appeal from the Court of Criminal Appeal in NSW. The appellant had been convicted of murder and expert evidence had been given at his trial about mitochondrial DNA testing of hair found on the deceased's thumbnail. The expert's statistical evidence was given in the form of a frequency ratio and an exclusion percentage. The issues were whether the evidence of the exclusion percentage was relevant given the evidence of the frequency ratio and whether the probative value of the evidence of the exclusion percentage outweighed the danger of unfair prejudice to the appellant.
Just back from Adelaide and attending the Australasian Council of Women and Policing (ACWAP) Conference. I have attended every biennial conference of ACWAP since its first forum in Kings Cross, Sydney, in 1996 and presented at all bar one. The conference, as usual, was well attended with around 260 delegates from within Australasia and overseas. Wonderful to catch up with policing colleagues that I have known for many years. I gave a one hour presentation on the apparent contribution of policing to Miscarriage of Justice cases, drawing on both national and international research and using high profile Miscarriage of Justice cases to illustrate how over-zealous or incompetent policing, or worse, as proven by research in this area, can lead to injustice. I stressed the key role that police play as gatekeepers to the entire criminal justice system.
Attended the Australian Academy of Forensic Sciences Expert Evidence Forum in Sydney on Saturday and Sunday 24 and 25 August 2013. See http://forensicacademy.org/site/wp-content/uploads/2013/08/Efficient-Forensic-Science-2.pdf. The forum was attended by over one hundred people including forensic scientists, academics, lawyers, judges and doctors. The keynote speaker was Karen Squibb-Williams from the UK who spoke about the dramatic changes to forensic science services in that country and the streamlining of services to reduce costs and delays. She also covered issues such as disclosure. Speakers also spoke about Miscarriages of Justice cases due to flawed expert evidence (or involving critical expert evidence) such as Mayfield (US fingerprint case), Mallard, Gilham and Wood. There was also a very good presentation on why Australia needed a Criminal Cases Review Commission. More on this later ....
On the 14th August 2013 an article entitled “Supervision, Management and Leadership of the Sue Neill-Fraser Murder Investigation” was published on this website. That article stated that evidence of a witness relevant to the allegation against Ms Neill-Fraser was ignored. Mr David Gunson SC and Ms Louise Brooks were acting as defence counsel for Ms Neill-Fraser at the relevant time.
Chester Porter QC in The Conviction of the Innocent: How the Law Can Let Us Down (Random House 2007) talks about how well-meaning but dubious forensic evidence can easily cause a Miscarriage of Justice (p.93). He refers to the "remarkable" case of Alexander McLeod-Lindsay, who was wrongly convicted of attempting to batter his wife, Pamela, to death with an iron bar in Sydney in 1964. The only evidence to incriminate him was a group of blood spatters on his clothing. The then new science of bloodstain dynamics identified the blood on his coat as impact spatter - that is, spatter from the impact of the bar's blows his wife's body. Only in that way could those stains have been caused, said the experts. He had to be the person who struck the blows which had smashed his wife's face.
Chester Porter QC on Forensic Evidence in The Conviction of the Innocent: How The Law Can Let Us Down
It was interesting to re-read the chapter on Forensics in Chester Porter QC's book The Conviction of the Innocent: How the Law Can Let Us Down (Random House 2007), knowing what I now know about the forensics in the Sue Neill-Fraser case here in Tasmania.
Enjoying reading the Thomson Reuters Expert Chapter (No.97) on Bloodstain Pattern Interpretation by Tony Raymond, Maxwell Jones and Jae Gerhard (Update: 56). Particularly interesting is their discussion of Bloodstain Pattern Analysis (BPA) in the Justice System (97-2051). The authors point out that there have been numerous occasions when the importance of the physical characteristics of the bloodstains outweigh or complement the individualisation (through the use of DNA etc.) and assist the scientist to answer the relevant investigative and legal questions. They refer to the cases of Ohio v Sheppard (1998) 84 Ohio St. 3d.230, 703 N.E. 2d 286 and the Australian case which led to the inquiry into the conviction of Alexander Lindsay. They point out that there have been a number of cases in the Western world, where bloodstain evidence has been of significance: R v Broughton (unreported, Queensland Court of Criminal Appeal, No.55, 1988); R v Sion Jenkins (1999, English Court of Appeal, Criminal Division, Case No. 98/4720/W3), Mallard v The Queen (2005) 224 CLR 125;  HCA 68; 222 ALR 236; R v Gilham (2009) NSWSC 138; Indiana v Camm 812 N.E. 2d 1127 (Ind App, 2004) and State v Peterson (361 NC 587 (547A06) 11 March 2007). The authors state that this is a recognition of the place that BPA has in the criminal justice system. Indeed, in 1983, the International Association of Bloodstain Pattern Analysts (IABPA) was formed to promote the general knowledge, techniques and understanding of BPA. Although initially a North American-focused group, it increasingly has a more universal membership and has an international influence on standards in this area.
There are some amazing parallels between the cases of Lindy Chamberlain and Sue Neill-Fraser here in Hobart. Lindy Chamberlain was convicted of the murder of her nearly 10 week old baby, Azaria, at Ayers Rock on 17 August 1980 and Sue Neill-Fraser was convicted in 2010 of the murder of her long-time partner, Bob Chappell, on Australia Day 2009. Both cases have polarised public opinion and divided the community. Indeed, as a long serving police officer, it took me many years to realise that Lindy was indeed innocent and it was really only after a Royal Commission (the Morling Inquiry) that her innocence was considered proven, at least for most.
The season for the Eve Ash Shadow of Doubt documentary on the Sue Neill-Fraser case has been extended for another week at the Hobart State Cinema, which is great news. There are 20 screenings scheduled for the next week alone. Feedback is also pleasing, with those who have attended asking lots of questions about the high profile case.
The three judges in the Lloyd Rayney appeal in WA have reserved their decision. See http://www.news.com.au/breaking-news/national/rayney-appeal-verdict-imminent/story-e6frfku9-1226692998886