Martin van Beynen writes at The Press:
A juror from the second trial of David Bain wrote to the justice minister urging him not to pay compensation for wrongful conviction and imprisonment.
Bain, 39, was acquitted in 2009 by a Christchurch jury of charges he murdered his parents Margaret, 50, and Robin, 58, and three siblings Arawa, 19, Laniet, 18, and Stephen, 14, in June 1994 in Dunedin.
The juror wrote to then justice minister Simon Power in April 2010 raising, among other things, misgivings about the conduct of the jury during the trial.
Much of the letter cannot be reported because the law prevents the publication of material revealing the deliberations of a jury. The Bain juror also expressed concerns about the jury not having access to evidence that was suppressed until the verdict was reached and then released after the trial.
In the letter, the juror reveals three other jurors, of their own volition, visited Every St, where the murders took place, during the trial.
Jurors must reach their verdict only on evidence heard or seen in court. They must not make their own investigations during the trial.
Three jurors visited the street? My God.
The Justice Ministry has appointed retired Canadian Supreme Court judge Ian Binnie to provide the Government with a recommendation on whether Bain has shown on the balance of probabilities that he is innocent.
The ministry’s acting chief legal counsel, Melanie Webb, said the assessment of whether someone should be paid compensation for wrongful conviction and imprisonment was a separate matter from the decision of a jury in a criminal case.
“This is why the letter in question has not been given to Justice Binnie at this stage. It is now Justice Binnie’s role to advise on the basis of the available evidence whether David Bain is, at a minimum, innocent on the balance of probabilities and whether extraordinary circumstances exist justifying compensation.”
While interesting, this does not affect the process. A juror can hold a legitimate view that David Bain was not guilty beyond reasonable doubt, but did do it on the balance of probabilities. However for the purpose of compensation it is Justice Binnie who will effectively decide, not jurors.