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Posts Tagged 'Scott Guy Murder Trial'

Why the jury in the Scott Guy murder trial should have been privy to all the facts about Ewen Macdonald

 

 

The criminal justice system in this country, as in many other countries, is founded on the principle that the combined experience, wisdom, reasoning power and common sense of 12 of an accused person’s peers may be relied on to reach a sound verdict on that person’s guilt or innocence. Though, for a variety of reasons, juries do occasionally get things wrong, history seems to suggest that no better method has yet been found of determining the truth in criminal trials.

Given the faith that we put in them to reach that sound verdict, it seems axiomatic that juries must have access to all the relevant facts in a trial. A decision to suppress or  conceal certain facts from the jury is therefore extremely serious and must surely meet the test that those facts can have no bearing on or relevance to the accused’s guilt or innocence.

In the Scott Guy murder trial, Justice Simon France allowed the jury to hear evidence of certain actions by the accused to which he had already pleaded guilty. The revelation of these actions placed Ewen Macdonald  in an extremely poor light and might well have suggested that he harboured feelings about his brother-in-law Scott Guy and the Guy family that might be considered a motive for murder. Macdonald had burnt down an old house on the Guys’ property and had vandalised and sprayed highly offensive graffiti on Scott  and Kylee’s new home.  Read the rest of this entry »

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Ewen Macdonald, the UMR Research poll on his guilt and a ‘triple jeopardy’ scenario.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Five days ago UMR Research published the results of a poll of 750 New Zealanders 18 years and older. Their  news release was headed ‘WHAT NEW ZEALANDERS THINK OF THE SCOTT GUY MURDER TRIAL’  and began:

 ‘Just 20% of New Zealanders believe Ewen Macdonald did not murder Scott Guy, according to a UMR Research poll released today.

‘UMR’s fortnightly Omnibus Survey shows 48% of people believe Ewen Macdonald is guilty, 20% say he is not guilty, and 28% said they were unsure. 4% of respondents refused to answer the question.’

UMR came in for some fairly sustained flak from letter-writers to the papers and bloggers for conducting the poll at all. At first I tended to share their disapproval. Macdonald had only recently been tried by a jury of his peers for the murder of Scott Guy and that jury had unanimously declared him not guilty. The UMR poll effectively constituted a re-trial of Macdonald for the same crime with the same evidence, but with a much larger, though considerably less well-informed, jury. That jury, it seemed, had found him guilty. Double jeopardy!

I was about to get stuck into UMR for this gratuitous breach of natural justice, when I suddenly remembered that, in a discussion of the trial and its outcome on TV3’s The Nation some days earlier, I had confidently declared that although Macdonald had been found not guilty by a jury of his peers, he had been found guilty ‘in the court of public opinion’.  The UMR poll had done nothing more than test that hypothesis by seeking the opinion of 750 adult New Zealanders and found it to be correct.   Read the rest of this entry »

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Not Guilty. Why it will not be the verdict of us all.

stuff.co.nz

There were two verdicts in the Scott Guy murder trial. In the first, a jury found the accused, Ewen Macdonald, Not Guilty; In the second, Scott’s widow, Kylee, declared Macdonald guilty, when she screamed, ‘He killed my husband!’ These were the last words spoken at the trial.

It is interesting to speculate which verdict will resound most with the general public. My guess is that it will be the second.

There’s precedent to support that opinion. A Not Guilty verdict in high profile murder trials, relying on circumstantial evidence,  is rarely accepted as the last word by the man and woman in the street.  Arthur Allan Thomas and David Bain, not to mention OJ Simpson,  provide excellent examples.

This morning I decided to recruit my own jury. During our morning walk, I approached 12 adults, some of whom I know well, some with whom I have only a passing acquaintance. I’d say they were a reasonable cross-section in terms of gender, age and socio-economic status. I asked each of them whether they believed Ewen Macdonald had killed Scott Guy. All 12 said they believed he had. When questioned further, all but one agreed that, given the available evidence, the Not Guilty verdict was the right verdict in law.

Several commentators have expressed the view that justice has been served in this case. It’s true that the requirements of the law with regard to the trial of an accused person have been met. Patently there was reasonable doubt . But I doubt whether anyone other than Ewen Macdonald knows for certain whether justice has been served.

That is the problem with ‘reasonable doubt’. The doubt remains at the end of the trial. Nothing has been resolved.  Read the rest of this entry »

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