When we think of ‘Miscarriages of Justice’, our minds immediately float to cases like the ‘Central Park 5’ or Brendan Dassey and Stephen Avery from Netflix’s ‘Making a Murderer’ documentary.
Thanks to platforms like Netflix, Social Media and Innocence Project initiatives, the public is more informed than ever when it comes to Miscarriages of Justice.
In the last few years, there has been a growing interest in such cases – Netflix has an ever-expanding library on the topic, with titles such as:
And while high-profile cases that are printed in the media are crucial in highlighting and educating the public on issues such as false confessions, misleading evidence, wrongful convictions and malicious prosecution, it would be incorrect to assume these particular cases are exceptional or uncommon.
In fact, Miscarriages of Justice are more common than you might think.
There have been a number of cases across Australia in recent years which have amounted to Miscarriages of Justice, including: Lindsay and Michael Chamberlain, whose baby went missing at Uluru; Gordon Wood, whose partner was found at the bottom of a notorious suicide spot in Sydney; and closer to home, Henry Keogh from Adelaide, whose partner was found dead in the bathtub.
All of these cases were found to have amounted to a Miscarriage of Justice, and although the total number of innocent people convicted of crimes can never be fully known, Civil Liberties Australia estimate 7% of all people convicted of crimes are innocent.
Now 7% may shock you, or it may not.
But if we’re talking about 10,000 prisoners, that means 700 of them are serving time for a crime they did not commit.
That’s a lot of cases, a lot of people, a lot of suffering families, and a big problem for the Australian Legal System. The University of Cincinnati Law Review published an article written by Lynne Weathered in 2012, which outlines the fascinating way in which Australia’s (generally modern) Legal System seems to fall drastically behind in regards to wrongful convictions.
Weathered is co-founder and Director of the Griffith University Innocence Project, and believes that although there are many reasons why a Miscarriage of Justice may occur – acknowledging flaws in the Justice System does not necessarily undermine it, but opens up opportunities for reform.
This is a view backed by other experts in the field, such as Dr Bob Moles, who has been heavily involved in Miscarriages of Justice cases all over the world, including Adelaide, Australia.
He and Associate Professor, Bibi Sangha from Flinders University are especially interested in the State of South Australia’s several failings in regards to their former Chief Forensic Pathologist, Dr Colin Manock.
Dr Manock performed thousands of autopsies and testified in hundreds of court cases in South Australia – after the state declared that he wasn’t competent to certify the cause of death.
Ms Sangha and Dr Moles said:
‘…question marks now hang over a substantial number of criminal cases in which Manock appeared as a scientific expert, as well as casting doubt on the findings of the thousands of autopsies he conducted.’
Dr Bob Moles is calling for a Royal Commission into the matter, after Henry Keogh’s conviction was overturned in 2014, after spending 20 years in prison after being convicted of drowning his fiancee in the bathtub.
The Court of Criminal Appeal found there had been a Miscarriage of Justice due to flawed evidence provided by discredited forensic pathologist Dr Colin Manock. Two new experts, Professor Derrick John Pounder and Dr Matthew Joseph Lynch found that Dr Manock’s evidence was flawed.
In the judgment, it was found that:
‘…Both [experts] agree that there is nothing in the autopsy findings to exclude the probability that Ms Cheney’s death was a drowning in the bath following a fall and a head injury which rendered her unconscious…’
Twenty years is a long time to sit in prison for a crime you didn’t commit – which begs the question: are there more innocent people sitting in prison because of the evidence of Dr Colin Manock?
The answer is a resounding ‘yes’. One such case, which is currently before the courts, is that of Mr Derek Bromley.
Derek Bromley, an Indigenous Adelaide man, was convicted of the murder of Stephen Docoza in 1984, based on the evidence of Dr Colin Manock, much the same as Henry Keogh.
As stated on Dr Bob Moles’ website, ‘Networked Knowledge‘, Bromley completed his non-parole period in 2008, but has not been released, as he maintains his innocence.
For a prisoner to be released, they must admit their wrongdoings and display their remorse, proving their rehabilitation – something someone who is innocent cannot do.
Derek Bromley has been in prison for 35 years – making him one of Australia’s longest serving prisoners.
Bromley’s case is due back before the courts in the coming months, with supporters keen to see his conviction thrown out:
Some may still question whether or not there is a possibility that Bromley may have committed the crime for which he was convicted, despite the botched evidence from Dr Manock. Regardless, Bromley has served more time than people convicted of much more horrendous crimes, who have long-since been released because they have admitted to what they have done.
But for an innocent man who refuses to admit to a crime he did not commit, he must stay in prison.
Some might also question why Bromley would not just admit to the crime, and therefore potentially be released on parole?
So let me ask you:
Would you admit to a crime that you did not commit?
If you would like to learn more about Derek Bromley’s case, or find out more about Miscarriages of Justice, head to:
*There is also a link at the bottom of my blog to Networked Knowledge, a page (and the people behind it) that I am proud to support in the continual search for justice, not only locally, but world-wide.