Friday, December 25, 2009

Australia: He served 15 years in jail, now he's granted a retrial

A Queensland man who spent 15 years in jail for murdering a 12-year-old schoolgirl in 1991 has had his conviction quashed on his third attempt at appeal. The Queensland Court of Appeal this afternoon ruled to allow Graham Stuart Stafford's third appeal against his conviction of murder in 1992 of Leanne Holland's murder in September 1991. His conviction has been overturned and a retrial has been ordered.

Leanne Holland's severely battered body was found in bushland off Redbank Plains Road, near her family's Goodna home, south-west of Brisbane, three days after she went missing. Stafford, then 28 years old and the boyfriend of Leanne's older sister Melissa, was found guilty on circumstantial evidence including traces of hair, blood and a maggot found in the boot of his car.

The English-born sheet metal worker, backed by supporters including criminologist Paul Wilson, has continued his long-running campaign to clear his name since he was released from jail on parole in 2006. Stafford and his supporters dispute the evidence used to convict him and claim he was the victim of a miscarriage of justice.

He last year sent a request for a pardon to Queensland's then attorney-general Kerry Shine, who subsequently referred the material to the Court of Appeal. "The new evidence that has come to hand relates to questions, for example, of where the murder took place and, indeed, when it took place," Mr Shine said at the time.

The Queensland Court of Appeal previously rejected Stafford's application to appeal his conviction in August 1992, and dismissed an application for a pardon based on fresh evidence in September 1997.

Original report here

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