Brittany Higgins Sexual Assault Trial Aborted Following Juror Misconduct

Spread the love


The trial of the man accused of sexually assaulting former Liberal staffer Brittany Higgins has been aborted without a verdict after a juror’s misconduct.

Chief Justice Lucy McCallum wrote in her decision that at least one juror had accessed research material outside of what was provided to the jury during the trial.

During a routine tidying of the jury room, one of the officers accidentally bumped one juror’s folder onto the floor.

When the officer picked it up to place it back, he noticed the title of the academic paper suggested the topic might be sexual assault, which was later confirmed.

“It is neither possible nor helpful to speculate as to the use to which this information might have been put in the jury room if any,” McCallum said. “[However], at the very least, the fact that the paper was located and taken into the jury room by the juror indicates that it may have influenced that juror’s contribution to the jury’s deliberations.”

“The unfairness to both parties is manifest.”

In her opening remarks to the jury during the trial, McCallum gave specific instructions that personally undertaking any further research or inquiries was “absolutely forbidden.”

“You must rest exclusively on the evidence you hear in this courtroom,” she told the jury in her initial instructions.

McCallum also reminded the jury after each day of the trial to refrain from searching for any keywords online, such as Brittany Higgins, even though there had been high media coverage on the trial.

In a footnote, the chief justice wrote that she following the discharge of the jury, she had been informed by the officers that the “same juror was also in possession of two additional academic articles on the topic of sexual assault.”

Media’s Active Involvement in Rape Trial

The case has been scheduled for a trial in February 2023, meaning it is still an active court case.

However, following the decision, Higgins chose to speak to the media outside of the ACT supreme court, which was broadcasted live on Australian television.

The lawyers of Bruce Lehrmann, the man charged with allegedly raping Higgins, have referred her public comments to the court and the federal police over concerns it may amount to contempt of the court.

“I urge all media to show restraint in reporting this matter and in particular in republishing the statements made by the complainant,” Lehrmann’s defence barrister Steve Whybrow wrote in a statement.

Previous extreme media attention and involvement in the case had delayed the trial after television host Lisa Wilkinson delivered a speech that “openly referred to and praised the complainant in the present trial,” McCallum said in June.

“The public at large is given to believe guilt is established. The importance of the rule of law has been set at nil,” she said, adding that while a delay in the case “has a corrosive effect on evidence,” the “overriding principle” is that the trial needs to be fair.

Epoch Times Photo
Brittany Higgins (L) and Lisa Wilkinson attend the marie claire International Women’s Day breakfast at est. on March 8, 2022 in Sydney, Australia. (Lisa Maree Williams/Getty Images)

Wilkinson had been nominated for a Logie for her reporting of Higgins’ allegation and had been warned by crown prosecutor Shane Drumgold that further public commentary surrounding the matter could lead to the trial being delayed, the court heard.

However, upon receiving her award at the Logies on June 19, the TV presenter mentioned and thanked Higgins for sharing her story.

‘No Room’ for Media in Jury’s Judgement

Joseph Fernandez, adjunct associate professor at Curtin University’s School of Media, Creative Arts, and Social Inquiry, previously told The Epoch Times that “there is absolutely no room for the media to participate in the jury’s judgement. None whatsoever.”

He said the media serves only to inform people as to what is going on in the courts and that “intense or distorted publicity” can influence juries and “prejudge a person’s guilt or innocence.”

The sentiment was echoed by Jason Bosland, director of the Centre for Media and Communications Law at Melbourne Law School, who told The Epoch Times that “media coverage could also interfere with a criminal trial by influencing the recollection or reliability of witness testimony.”

Nina Nguyen contributed to this report.

Rebecca Zhu

Follow

Rebecca Zhu is based in Sydney. She focuses on Australian and New Zealand national affairs. Got a tip? Contact her at rebecca.zhu@epochtimes.com.au.



Source link

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.