Newspaper article Daily Examiner (Grafton, Australia)

Tantamount to Jury Tampering

Newspaper article Daily Examiner (Grafton, Australia)

Tantamount to Jury Tampering

Article excerpt

THE Daniel Morcombe murder trial almost fell over twice, after mistrial applications arguing Brett Peter Cowan could no longer have a fair hearing.

Defence barrister Angus Edwards unsuccessfully argued there was prejudice and unfair consequences that could not be overcome through judicial directions to the jury.

A potentially prejudicial note left at the site where Daniel was abducted resulted in a whole day of legal argument on day 15 of the trial.

The note, left near a memorial to Daniel, suggested nobody could rest until Mr Cowan was convicted.

On day 14 of the trial - with 115 witnesses having testified and more than 200 exhibits tendered - jurors visited the abduction site and the site he claimed he later dumped his body.

Mr Edwards said the document was worse than any media report, referring to an earlier mistrial application over a Courier-Mail front page, because it was so personal.

He suggested any jurors who might have seen the note would feel pressure "to end this and convict my client".

"It is tantamount in its effect to jury tampering," he said.

The court heard police had checked the scene the day before the jury view to ensure there were no signs that were prejudicial.

Detective Ross Hutton said he did not see the note that day and two other detectives present during the jury view did not see it either.

Crown prosecutor Michael Byrne said nobody was deliberately reckless and it was an oversight the note was left there.

He said the defence had assumed the risk of doing a view at the memorial site and the possibility of slips occurring was inescapable.

Mr Byrne said the jury had shown all the hallmarks of conscientiousness that was required and there was no reason to suspect the pressure on the jury would be of an appreciable weight.

Mr Edwards argued the police had a duty to ensure there was no prejudicial material at any of the sites visited.

"Somewhere along the line there has been negligence, negligence which results in my client being unable to receive a trial which is fair," he said. …

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