The Curious Case of Sue Neill-Fraser (SNF), jailed for murder with no body, no murder weapon, no direct eyewitness and only speculative guilt deduced by an ill-informed jury, may be back in court for a second major appeal next month (Oct 2016).
Now seven years into a minimum 13-year sentence, the woman Civil Liberties Australia believes is innocent is appealing her conviction for the second time.
The bid for another appeal stems from a new law, shorthanded as the ‘Right To Appeal’, which Civil Liberties Australia introduced to and helped through the Tasmanian Parliament.
A judge of the Supreme Court of Tasmania is deciding whether the appeal will be heard by a full bench (three judges) of the court.
Here’s how noted justice advocate, law lecturer and author, Dr Bob Moles of Adelaide, described the SNF case to Malaysian law students:
(In) the Tasmanian case of Sue Neill-Fraser in 2010 which utilized forensic evidence based upon preliminary screening tests without confirmatory tests, the same error (happened) as occurred in the Edward Splatt and Lindy Chamberlain cases in Australia and the IRA bombing cases in the UK.
The forensic scientist in Neill-Fraser said that she could tell whether the luminol test response was to blood as opposed to around 100 other possible substances by the quality of the glow or sparkle response to the luminol. That, of course, has no scientific basis to it.
A judge of the Supreme Court of Canada stated when reviewing our** previous book:
“In their study of miscarriages of justice in Britain, Canada and Australia, Professors Sangha, Roach and Moles identify recurring problems common to the experience of those jurisdictions. These include the use of preliminary tests as conclusive evidence…” (1)
After Neill-Fraser’s partner (Bob Chappell) had disappeared, the prosecutor told the jury that they could tell by the injuries ‘he would have had’ that he must have been attacked by someone he knew.
(The jury was told) his body must have been disposed of ‘outside the search area’ because it was not found inside the search area. He must have been killed by someone known to him because if a stranger had killed him why would they have hidden the body?
The jury was told it would be ‘nonsense’, ‘ridiculous’ to suggest a stranger would bother to conceal the body of someone they had killed.
His wife was convicted of his murder. It was said she must have used a heavy wrench to kill him, because there wasn’t one on the boat. She must have weighed his body down with a fire extinguisher, because there wasn’t one of those on the boat either.
The major evidential inferences in this case were derived from the absence of evidence. All of this was quite contrary to established legal principles. Yet the woman remains in prison to this day. (7 years, and counting, in September 2016).
(1) 2 March 2011, ‘The Challenges of Scientific Evidence’ the Hon Thomas A Cromwell, Judge of the Supreme Court of Canada, The Macfadyen Lecture 2011 – The Scottish Council of Law Reporting
Excerpt from an address 16 February 2015: INTI International University, Kuala Lumpur
Miscarriages of Justice: Australia, Britain and Canada, given by Dr Bob Moles.
The full address, with links, is available at http://netk.net.au/SA/INTI2016.pdf
** Moles’ and Sangha’s latest book is: Miscarriages of Justice: Criminal Appeals and the Rule of Law in Australia. http://tinyurl.com/h8owusx