• Murder trial with a twist: defamation jury to decide if Gordon Wood killed Caroline Byrne

    Date: 2019.06.16 | Category: 南京夜网 | Tags:

    Gordon Wood was acquitted of murdering his girlfriend almost three years ago. Photo: Adam HollingworthAlmost three years after Gordon Wood was acquitted of murdering his girlfriend Caroline Byrne, a court has been asked to decide the question again – this time, with a lower standard of proof.

    The murder trial with a twist is the result of defamation proceedings brought by Mr Wood against newspaper publisher Nationwide News for alleging he did kill the Sydney model, whose body was found at the base of cliffs at The Gap in the early hours of June 8, 1995.

    A former chauffeur to stockbroker Rene Rivkin, Mr Wood was acquitted of the murder of Ms Byrne by the Court of Criminal Appeal in February 2012 after spending three-and-a-half years behind bars.

    The acquittal, which followed a guilty verdict in 2008, appeared to mark the final chapter in one of the state’s longest-running cases.

    But Supreme Court Justice Lucy McCallum said on Friday that the defamation case against Nationwide News would, in effect, involve the publisher “re-running the Crown case in the criminal trial” with a lower standard of proof that applies in civil cases.

    Nationwide News is defending the case on the basis that the allegation of murder is true. A 12-person jury will have to decide whether it has proven that Mr Wood killed Ms Byrne “on the balance of probabilities”, that is, it is more likely than not that he did.

    In a criminal trial where the liberty of an accused hangs in the balance, the Crown is held to a much higher standard and must prove guilt “beyond reasonable doubt”.

    Mr Wood brought defamation proceedings against four media outlets last year, including radio stations 2GB and 2UE. The court heard on Friday the Nationwide News case is now the “last one standing” after a string of settlements.

    Mr Wood’s barrister, Sue Chrysanthou, told Justice McCallum on Friday that he had settled his case against Channel Seven Sydney, which was to be tried at the same time as the case against Nationwide News.

    In September this year, Justice McCallum ordered that the case should be decided by a jury of 12 rather than four.

    “The determination of an allegation of murder is one which weighs heavily on those who have to determine it,” Justice McCallum said in a preliminary judgment.

    “In my view, a group of twelve jurors rather than four is better equipped to bear that responsibility.”

    She added the original trial received “a great deal of media attention” and a larger jury might help “dilute the influence of any single juror whose passions or antipathies may be aroused for or against one of the parties”.

    The court heard on Friday that Mr Wood had been resisting providing written answers under oath to questions, known as interrogatories, served on him by Nationwide News as part of its preparation for the case.

    At least one of the questions related to his movements on the night of Ms Byrne’s death and his answers would form part of the evidence in the trial.

    Ms Chrysanthou said it would be “oppressive” and “vexatious” to require Mr Wood to recall events from 20 years ago and he had already provided statements to police and journalists that could be used in the case. He did not give evidence in his murder trial.

    Justice McCallum ruled on Friday that Mr Wood should answer the questions.

    In 2012, the Court of Criminal Appeal found there was insufficient evidence to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Mr Wood had murdered Ms Byrne, then 24. The court said it was unclear how Ms Byrne fell to her death or whether Mr Wood had any involvement.

    The defamation trial is expected to run for up to eight weeks. A date will be set next year.

    This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.