Friday, August 22, 2014

David Eastman: Australia; Momentous development; Free at last after conviction quashed - but facing prospect of a new trial; Canberra Times story shows how a bungled forensic investigation lay at the heart of this glaring miscarriage of justice.

  • STORY: "David Eastman released from prison after conviction quashed" by reporters Christopher Knaus and Michael Inman, published by the Canberra Times on August 22, 2014.

  • PHOTO CAPTION:  "David Eastman has been released on bail after a court ruled he did not get a fair trial on charges he murdered Police Commissioner Colin Winchester. He left court in a maroon sedan, with a blanket over his head."
  • GIST:  'David Eastman is a free man, relased on bail after his conviction for murdering ACT police chief Colin Winchester was quashed......Despite his newfound freedom, the prospect of a retrial for the 1989 murder of Commissioner will hang over Eastman's head.........ACT Director of Public Prosecutions Jon White issued a statement on Friday afternoon saying the new trial was under consideration.........The spotlight is now on the Director of Public Prosecutions, who has the ultimate say over whether Eastman will be hauled back before court for a second trial.........He will return to court on September 11, although a new trial - if it goes ahead - will not happen until at least 2015......... In a judgment published on Friday, the court, comprised of Justices Steven Rares, Michael Wigney and acting Justice Dennis Cowdroy, found Eastman did not receive a trial according to law. The judges said a fair trial was a fundamental right of every person charged with a criminal offence. "It would be an affront to justice to permit the conviction to stand. We have concluded that the conviction be quashed," Justice Rares said.........Victorian-based expert Robert Collins Barnes strongly linked gunshot residue found in Eastman's Mazda boot with the murder scene. Even Eastman's trial judge, Ken Carruthers, paid tribute to the strength of the forensics when sentencing Eastman to life in November 1995."This investigation must surely rank as one of the most skilled, sophisticated and determined forensic investigations in the history of criminal investigation in Australia," he said at the time. That statement was left in tatters by the Eastman inquiry. A covert recording between the supposedly-independent Mr Barnes and a senior detective was played to the inquiry in which he described himself as a "police witness", and attempted to stymy attempts to have his work thoroughly reviewed. Any serious investigation of Mr Barnes would have found he lacked objectivity, overplayed the strength of his evidence, and became emotionally involved in the case, the inquiry found. The provenance of critical evidence was either non-existent or highly doubtful, and fundamental data was not produced by Mr Barnes prior to trial. "In some instances it is apparent that Mr Barnes could not have undertaken the organic analyses upon which he claimed to have based his opinions," Acting Justice Martin found. "In other respects, the contemporaneous accounts strongly suggest that such analyses were not carried out and that Mr Barnes' report was wrong.""
  • The entire story can be found at:


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