Monday, December 28, 2009

THE GRAHAM STAFFORD CASE: PREFACE FROM BOOK BY GRAEME CROWLEY AND PAUL WILSON ON THEIR EFFORTS TO EXPOSE THE MISCARRIAGE OF JUSTICE;


"WE AT NO STAGE SUGGEST THAT SUCH EVIDENCE WAS INTRODUCED BY UNPROFESSIONAL OR UNETHICAL POLICE OFFICERS AND FORENSIC SCIENTISTS. WE BELIEVE ALL POLICE OFFICERS AND FORENSIC SCIENTISTS WERE PROFESSIONAL AND ETHICAL DURING THE INVESTIGATION OF THIS CASE AND IN THEIR EVIDENCE GIVEN IN COURT. BUT THEY ARE ALSO HUMAN, AND AS IN SO MANY MISCARRIAGES OF JUSTICE, MISTAKES AND OMISSIONS CAN OCCUR AND CERTAIN OPINIONS GIVEN MAY BE SUBJECT TO DIFFERENT INTERPRETATIONS. IN THE INTEREST OF CLEARING GRAHAM STAFFORD’S NAME, WE POINT TO DIFFERENT CONCLUSIONS THAT CAN REASONABLY BE DRAWN FROM THE SCIENTIFIC AND FORENSIC EVIDENCE."

FROM PREFACE TO "WHO KILLED LEANNE: AN INVESTIGATION INTO A MURDER AND A MISCARRIAGE OF JUSTICE" BY GRAEME CROWLEY AND PAUL WILSON; (ZEUS PUBLICATIONS) (2005);

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BACKGROUND: (WIKIPEDIA): Graham Stuart Stafford was a sheet metal worker from Goodna, near Ipswich, Queensland who was convicted in 1992 of the murder of twelve-year-old Leanne Sarah Holland. Leanne Holland, the younger sister of Stafford's former partner, Melissa Holland, was murdered in September 1991. Her viciously mutilated body was found three days after she was reported missing in nearby Redbank Plains. It is possible she was also sexually interfered with and tortured with a cigarette lighter. Stafford appealed to the Queensland Court of Appeal, but this appeal was rejected on 25 August 1992. In 1997, the Queensland Court of Appeal re-examined the case after Stafford lodged an application for pardon with the State Governor on the basis of evidence gathered by private detective, Graeme Crowley. The Court of Appeal dismissed the appeal again by a two-to-one majority on the grounds that there was still enough evidence to convict. Two applications for special leave to the High Court of Australia subsequently failed. Stafford was released in June 2006 after serving over 14 years in prison. Stafford, who was born in England and does not have Australian citizenship despite having migrated to Australia in 1969, faced deportation in November 2006. Some people, including Professor Paul Wilson of Bond University believe that Stafford is a victim of a miscarriage of justice. The Queensland Attorney-General, Kerry Shine, has agreed to closely consider any request on Stafford's behalf concerning a petition to clear him of the murder conviction. In April 2008, the Queensland Attorney-General referred the case to the Court of Appeal for a very rare second appeal for pardon. On December 24, 2009 the Court of Appeal overturned Graham Stafford's conviction and ordered a retrial by a 2-1 majority. The dissenting judge wanted an immediate acquittal.

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"Lindy Chamberlain, Kelvin Condren, Alexander McLeod-Lindsay and Edward Splatt are just some Australians who have suffered gross miscarriages of justice as a result of being convicted of crimes they did not commit," the preface begins.

"In each of these cases, subsequent investigation has shown that both police and forensic experts made major mistakes resulting in the conviction of an innocent person," the preface continues.

"Some forensic experts and police investigators are fond of saying that their techniques are now so sophisticated that it is all but impossible for similar miscarriages of justice to arise. Forensic science is increasingly seen as the panacea for solving what the media continue to portray as an upsurge in violent crime. Advances in DNA profiling, new blood typing techniques, sophisticated ballistics analysis and other scientific methods of criminal investigation appear to have given police an edge in the battle against crime.

But despite these advances, forensic mistakes continue and innocent people are convicted by a justice system that stacks the odds against them. Despite the significant advances made by forensic science there are at least two reasons for the persistence of major miscarriages of justice in Australia. The case of Graham Stafford dramatically illustrates both of these reasons.

The first relates to our adversarial legal system. Inherited from Britain, the system is designed, at least in theory, to seek out the truth. In the modern world, however, lawyers tend to fight each other and point-score. In the process, they use forensic science and forensic ‘experts’ to gain ascendancy over the other side, rather than to impartially pursue justice. Sadly, the jury system as it exists today is more a matter of salesmanship than a quest for the truth, as it can be a case of the most eloquent lawyer wins.

The second reason focuses on how the police and prosecution mount a case against a suspect. Natural justice is supposed to ensure that a suspect receives a fair trial and all evidence, for and against the suspect, is presented to the court. It is our view that the adversarial system gives police enormous discretion over what evidence is followed up or ignored and which suspect is eventually interrogated, detained and charged. Unlike the system of justice in most European nations, where independent oversight is provided by a judge or non-police official, Australia’s adversarial procedures allow the police to cull the evidence they collect. Unless the defence is able to pour enormous resources into their own investigation, the jury will have no idea that what is presented to them by police and prosecution is potentially distorted. The worst case scenario is where evidence has been illegally obtained or fabricated. However the evidence does not have to fall into this category to give a misleading impression to a jury.

The Stafford case exemplifies some flaws in police and legal procedures and this is one of the main reasons why this book was written. We believe that the conviction of Graham Stafford for the murder of Leanne Sarah Holland is a significant miscarriage of justice in the Australian judicial system. And it becomes an even more appalling miscarriage of justice when it is obvious that the criminal justice system and forensic science appear to have learned very little from the mistakes made in the Chamberlain and other cases involving convictions of innocent people based almost entirely on forensic evidence.

Paul Wilson, a criminologist, has written a great deal on wrongful convictions in murder cases. He became involved because he believes this case, more than any other in recent years, shows how easily such travesties can come about, and how difficult it is to correct such mistakes. Graeme Crowley, a former police officer who served in the Queensland force for twelve years, spent many years investigating the facts surrounding the murder of Leanne Holland and the police case against Graham Stafford. He too, is convinced that the criminal justice system has failed utterly in this case. Both are drawn to the inescapable conclusion that a violent sexual killer remains unpunished for this crime.

The brief facts of the case are as follows: Leanne Sarah Holland, twelve years of age, went missing on or about Monday 23 September 1991, from her home at 70A Alice Street in Goodna, an outer western suburb of Brisbane. Her body was found three days later, ten kilometres away, dumped on a bush track at Redbank Plains. She had been viciously battered to death. It is possible that she was sexually interfered with and tortured. She had been apparently burned in a number of places, perhaps with a cigarette, and marks may have been carved into her skin after she died. It was a horrendous crime and all the more brutal given the child’s age. Graham Stuart Stafford, the live-in boyfriend of Melissa Holland, was arrested for Leanne’s murder on Saturday 28 September 1991, five days after her apparent disappearance. To this day, Stafford remains a prisoner in a Queensland gaol, serving a life sentence for a crime he maintains he did not commit and was not connected with.

The police alleged Stafford had murdered Leanne sometime between 8.00am and 4.00pm on Monday 23 September in the house at Alice Street. It is further alleged that he secreted the body in the boot of his car before dumping it at Redbank Plains early on the morning of Wednesday 26 September. Although there were no eyewitnesses, no confession and no motive, he had opportunity and there was forensic and circumstantial evidence connecting him to the crime. Tyre marks, his bloodstained car at the crime scene, inconsistencies in his police statement, and a maggot all formed part of the Crown case. The defence case was straightforward. Stafford was not involved in the disappearance or the death of Leanne. Graham claimed Leanne left the house where they lived together early on the Monday morning and was never seen again.

Crowley first became involved in late 1992 when he was a licensed private inquiry agent operating in the Brisbane area. Stafford’s parents, Eric and Jean, came to him by way of a referral from a firm of solicitors for whom Crowley had undertaken some work. They told Crowley that they knew within their hearts that their son was innocent, for he had continually assured them he had nothing to do with the crime and they unshakably believed him. Jean said that when Graham was arrested they did not know all the details of the allegations against him. On the day of his arrest they telephoned a solicitor who was a friend of a friend. The lawyer strongly suggested that Graham be told to tell the truth and, if he did this, ‘everything would be all right’. That was the advice the parents passed onto Graham but given the outcome of the trial they regret very much giving him such na├»ve advice.

In 1992, the Stafford family also decided to approach criminologist Paul Wilson. Dr Wilson had a public profile as a criminologist who was known to speak out on issues relating to miscarriages of justice. Wilson had been vocal in the media about the wrongful conviction of Lindy Chamberlain and that of Kelvin Condren. In that Queensland case, Condren, an Aboriginal man, was subsequently found to be innocent of a murder for which he had been imprisoned. Wilson was also known to be critical of the Queensland police generally and, in particular, of the methods they used to solve some crimes. He spent many hours analysing the transcripts of the trial and spoke to the Stafford family in some detail. His partner, Robyn Lincoln, herself a criminologist, assisted him in these tasks and both of them came to the same conclusion. They believed the death of Leanne Holland and the media publicity it generated provoked a hasty police investigation with a view to obtaining a quick arrest. As a result, investigation procedures were not followed, leading to weak forensic and circumstantial evidence being collected that wrongly convicted an innocent man.

At this stage Wilson and Crowley had not met, though Wilson was aware of some newspaper articles that linked the private detective to the Stafford family’s search for justice. Crowley spent some time going through hundreds of pages of trial transcripts and making other preliminary inquiries. At the end of this period he was sure that the evidence implicating Stafford in this murder was overwhelming. He wanted to go straight to the prison and tell Stafford to confess to his parents and put the family out of their collective misery. Crowley believed Jean and Eric to be wonderful people, deserving of the truth, whatever it might be. They may not have liked what Crowley was about to tell them, he thought, but at least they would be able to get on with their lives.

Within a short time however, he made further inquiries and became intrigued by the irregularities and inconsistencies in the police case. By the time the small amount of money that Eric and Jean Stafford had provided for investigations was spent, the detective was sure that he had found serious and significant discrepancies in many areas of the police investigation. He has never taken on unpaid work before. The likelihood of getting further monies in this investigation looked remote. However, he was unsettled by the case and decided to pursue it at his own expense. He believed in a ‘fair go’ and to his mind, Graham Stafford had not received this.

As he worked through the material relating to the case he found the evidence against Stafford to be almost entirely circumstantial and of a questionable forensic nature. On the face of it, the Crown had a strong case but the evidence had never been thoroughly tested, even in a courtroom. There had been little or no cross-examination of the witnesses; the forensic evidence lacked credibility; and, at least in Crowley’s (and later Wilson’s) eyes, the personality profile of the killer simply did not fit Stafford’s character or history.

Crowley’s tenacity lost him friends in the police service. He was perceived by some as a ‘bleeding heart’ and rumours circulated about him and his relationship with the Stafford family. One such blatant lie was that the family home had been transferred into Crowley’s name to pay his fees. Some months later, Graeme Crowley the investigator met Graham Stafford the convicted murderer. The young man continued to deny any involvement in Leanne’s death. He did not speculate on what Leanne may have done that day or what the police said happened. He simply told Crowley that he did not kill Leanne and had no idea who had. He repeated his claim that Leanne had walked out of the house early on the Monday morning to go to the local shops; he never saw her again.

Early in 1993 Crowley approached detectives in Brisbane’s western suburbs who were involved in another murder investigation at that time. He wanted to explore any connection between that murder and the killing of Leanne. He expressed concern that there may have been a miscarriage of justice and explained his suspicions of a possible link between the two murders. Instead of receiving a favourable reception, Crowley was rewarded for his efforts by being the subject of a complaint of interfering in an ongoing police investigation. The complaint came to nothing but Crowley was concerned, suspicious and angered by the over-reaction of the police, making him wonder about the real agenda behind their actions. This attempt to derail his inquiries, however, had the opposite effect because Crowley became even more determined to press on with his scrutiny of Leanne’s murder.

This is the story of a police investigation conducted hurriedly and no doubt under extreme pressure to produce a positive result. It is a story of evidence being introduced which had the effect of implicating Stafford as the killer. It is also the story of evidence that existed at the time of his trial that would show beyond reasonable doubt that Stafford did not and could not have killed his girlfriend’s young sister.

We at no stage suggest that such evidence was introduced by unprofessional or unethical police officers and forensic scientists. We believe all police officers and forensic scientists were professional and ethical during the investigation of this case and in their evidence given in court. But they are also human, and as in so many miscarriages of justice, mistakes and omissions can occur and certain opinions given may be subject to different interpretations. In the interest of clearing Graham Stafford’s name, we point to different conclusions that can reasonably be drawn from the scientific and forensic evidence.

Beyond this, it is also the story of other innocent victims of our criminal justice system. Leanne Sarah Holland is one victim. Her family members are others, having to deal with the loss of a loved one on a daily basis. The Stafford family has also lost a loved one; for while Graham is alive, he is serving a life sentence in gaol and is stigmatised as a vicious killer. His family has to endure the pain and shame of their son’s incarceration. Broader still, it is fair to say that truth and justice are also victims in this case."


The preface can be found at:

http://www.zeus-publications.com/who_killed_leanne.htm

Harold Levy...hlevy15@gmail.com;