Wednesday, May 16, 2007

David Bain - free at last

David Bain. I always felt uneasy about the David Bain conviction. Something didn't feel right about it, somehow. I'm happy that the Privy Council have found that he was the victim of a "substantial miscarriage of justice".

It was lovely seeing David's smiling face with its ear-to-ear grin on the front page of the paper today. It made me smile, too. How must it feel to suddenly be out in the world again, after 13 years inside? And the media scrum? What a crazy amount of media/public interest! I bet he's completely taken aback by absolutely everything...

I suppose the thing that's surprised me most about the latest events in David's life has been the response of yer average Kiwi. I didn't realise just what a high proportion of people think that he at least deserves a second hearing - with some calling for his immediate release and an official pardon. Or at least, that's been the verdict on the New Zealand Herald's Your Views pages this week.

Just to recap... there were nine key factors which, when taken together, influenced the Privy Council's decision that Bain's convictions should be quashed:

  1. Robin Bain's mental state
    The jury did not know that Robin, a school principal, was "seriously disturbed" or that children at his school were writing sadistic stories, including one about the serial murder of family members.

  2. Motive
    The jury did not know that Robin was facing claims of incest from his 18-year-old daughter, Laniet - a possible motive for murder.

  3. Bloodstained socks
    David's feet were about 20cm too big to match bloodstained sockprints found all over the house but the prints were the right size for Robin.

  4. When computer was switched on
    The prosecution claimed the computer was switched on at exactly 6.44am - just after David returned from his paper round - but it might have been turned on earlier by Robin.

  5. When David returned home
    A witness identified David returning home at 6.45am, possibly too late to have murdered his father.

  6. The glasses
    David said he was wearing his mother's glasses but the jury was wrongly told they were his own - an error which may have reduced his credibility in their eyes.

  7. The misplaced lens
    The jury was told the left-hand lens from the glasses was found on the floor on Stephen's bedroom near his body - in fact it was lying under a skate boot and a jacket.

  8. The bloody fingerprints
    David's fingerprints on the rifle may have been bloody from shooting rabbits or possums months earlier.

  9. Laniet's gurgling
    The Privy Council said the Court of Appeal was wrong to dismiss defence claims that Laniet could have already been dead when David heard gurgling noises coming from her body.

That's a lot of evidence the original jury never got to hear...

I guess I'm happy with the fact that, after all these years, David has another chance to clear his name - and, if the police decide to have a retrial, they have another chance to convict him - with all the evidence out in the open this time.

Because in the end, I think what matters is the question of "reasonable doubt". With all that additional evidence, don't you think at least one person on the original jury might have believed that the prosecution's case was not proven beyond a reasonable doubt? I do.

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