Saturday, March 25, 2006

Schapelle - fair trial?

These days, it isn't fashionable to be a Schapelle Corby supporter.

People are sick of it. Or she must be guilty because her brother James did something stupid. And her Dad's former next-door neighbour is facing marijuana charges. And anyway there are worse things happening in the world so it's time to move on.

I'm going to do a number of posts over time to outline my views about some of this stuff, but let's start with the question of why I became a Schapelle supporter in the first place.

I guess there are two dimensions to that question:

(1) Why care about her at all?

(2) In a world of appalling natural disasters, African children being boiled alive, millions of people starving in poverty, political activists disappearing in the night, glaciers melting and species on the edge of extinction why care about Schapelle in particular. A valid question, but I'll talk about that some other day.

I support Schapelle because she didn’t get a fair trial, because the sentence she received was outrageous even if she were guilty and because she may be innocent.

But in a single post, I’ve only got space to address the ‘fair trial’ aspect. I’ll talk about the other stuff later.

My concern with the trial is that it failed to redress the appalling treatment of evidence by the arresting authorities. On the night of her arrest, Schapelle asked for all of the bags to be weighed for which she was holding a luggage tag. The authorities laughed at her request and refused to do it. She also asked that the authorities stop handling the bag of marijuana so as not to contaminate fingerprint evidence. Again the only response was laughter. In a capital case, they laughed at her!

The courts and many commentators have made light of this. They have said that the evidence against Schapelle was strong enough that there was no need to gather further evidence. Yet I contend that the evidence they allowed to be contaminated or failed to collect was the only evidence capable of clearing her. Detractors seem to be fond of pointing out that she failed to provide evidence to support her claims of innocence. Yet clearly, she has been denied the possibility of doing so by the shonky handling of critical evidence by the Indonesians.

And that evidence really did have the capacity to lead to a not guilty verdict. We know that the weight of luggage for which she held tags was 65kg at check-in at Brisbane airport. If the weight in Bali had been 69.1kg, she would have been enjoying the rest of her holiday within a few days.

In the case of the fingerprint evidence, detractors are quick to claim that the absence of Schapelle's prints would have proved nothing. And they're right. But the presence of somebody else's prints, particularly those of a known criminal, a Bali Customs Officer or an Australian baggage handler, would have at least given her a good chance at trial. We'll never know!

In my view, the only fair redress, for what was a blatant disregard for her legal rights, was for the trial judges to have refused to admit the cannabis bag as evidence. Yet the trial judgment talks of the defence ‘making much of small things’. Hardly! The only evidence that could reasonably have led to her being found not guilty was deliberately contaminated or not collected. That is a very big thing.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Hi y'all

Hi y'all. I'm True Blue when I'm on the Internet. Or sometimes true_blue or Truest_Blue depending on whether somebody else used my name first. I guess it's not a terribly original name but it seems appropriate being a passionate Aussie and a proud Carlton Football Club supporter.

I'm not sure how this is going to go and whether or not I'll have much to say. I suspect that depends how busy I am at work. Right now things are a bit frantic so I'll keep this short.

I'm pretty much a lefty. I tend to side with the Schapelle Corbys, David Hickses and Bob Brown's of the world. I deplore Kim Beazley's never-ending attempts to move further to the right than Herr Howard. And I cannot believe that any decent human being can support the death penalty for anything.

But let's leave it there or I'll have nothing left to say in future.