Friday, May 16, 2014

Australia: Eastman inquiry wraps up

Eastman is a bit of an oddball but he was convicted on nothing more than supposition and bad forensic science. The cop was involved in a deal with the Riverina mafia which fell apart. So it was probably the mafia that potted him. The cops didn't want that to become known however so they fitted up poor silly old Eastman for the crime. There has always been extensive disquiet about his conviction

The Eastman inquiry has ended, amid calls for his murder charge to be quashed and a miscarriage of justice declared.

The inquiry has been considering the conviction of David Harold Eastman for the murder of Australian Federal Police (AFP) Assistant Commissioner Colin Winchester in 1989.

Inquiry head Justice Brian Martin will now prepare a report for the Supreme Court, which will have the final say.

In his final submissions Eastman's lawyer Mark Griffin QC urged Justice Martin to take a strong line in his recommendations.

"The fact is there have been significant failures that cannot be excused," he said.

"To let the (conviction) stand is to countenance a gross miscarriage of justice."

"You can make a report to the full court which corrects the record."

"You can make a conclusive finding that there was a miscarriage so the defects, flaws and failures... can be remedied."

Forensic case against Eastman put in doubt by inquiry

The most important development in the inquiry was the systematic demolition of the forensic case which was key to his conviction.

Forensic scientist Robert Collins Barnes was forced to admit he may have misled earlier hearings about some of the evidence.

His methods and record keeping were also roundly criticised.

In her summing up, counsel assisting the inquiry Liesl Chapman said: "The opinions he expressed at trial were seriously flawed and there is a question about his reliability and veracity."

Mr Griffin urged Justice Martin to deliver an adverse finding about Mr Barnes, as well as police and prosecutors in the case.

He also raised concerns about police tactics, which involved listening devices to record Eastman talking to himself at home.

"You should reflect your disapproval of that conduct ... there needs to be some admonition," Mr Griffin said.

But lawyers for the DPP and police told the inquiry even without the forensic evidence the guilty verdict was supported by an overwhelming circumstantial case.

AFP counsel Lionel Robberds outlined that case.

Eastman had been a suspect because he had made threats against Assistant Commissioner Winchester, after he had failed to secure his help in having an assault charge dropped.

Eastman believed the police should not have charged him, but should have charged the other man involved.

Mr Robberds said Eastman had increasing frustration over his failure to be reinstated in the public service.

David Eastman's legal battle timeline

"He knew the case was going to ruin him for life," he said. "If it went ahead and he was convicted that would be the end of it all."

He said one witness had suggested he had stalked the premises where the crime took place.

And, Mr Robberds told the hearing, despite being one of the most intelligent people on this earth, "In less than 12 hours, he said he did not remember where he was."

Mr Griffin also raised concerns that police should have considered the alternative theory that mafia figures were involved in the killing. He told the court today there was a body of evidence suggesting some mafia figures had a strong motive for the murder.

He says that theory is a counterbalance to the prosecutions circumstantial case.

In her summing up, Ms Chapman told the hearing she disagreed with police that they had done a thorough investigation of the alternative hypotheses. The inquiry has considered some of the mafia evidence in secret.

Among the issues Justice Martin must now consider is whether the collapse of the forensic case justifies a miscarriage of justice finding.

He will also be considering whether there should be a retrial.

Mr Griffin has urged against that idea. "The prospect of there being a retrial is just so remote as to not be feasible. The prejudice in conducting a retrial would be extreme," he said.

Judge thanks Eastman for his good behaviour during inquiry

Justice Martin wrapped up today's hearing with a personal message to Eastman who has been watching the inquiry from a room at Canberra's jail. He thanked him for not interrupting. He also acknowledged Eastman's troubled history with losing confidence in his lawyers and sacking them.

Justice Martin told Eastman he had been very lucky to have Mr Griffin to represent him.

The Supreme Court will decide the final outcome of the inquiry based on recommendations from Justice Martin.

But it may still all be academic.

The court is still considering a challenge to the inquiry's establishment.

Mr Barnes has asked Justice Martin to delay handing his report to the court until that ruling is delivered. Justice Martin says he is still considering the request.

It is not known when there will be a decision on that or the future of Justice Martin's report.

Original report here. (Via Australian Politics)


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