Thursday, 21 October 2010

more on the trial of greg meads

i was going to write a piece on the grant meads case, but deborah beat me to it. however, there are a couple of aspects of the case that i want to talk about, other than the excellent point she has raised.

the main defence in this case was that mr meads didn't mean to pull the trigger, even though he took a loaded shotgun with him & pointed it at her, with the safety catch off. i'm glad that the jury had no trouble dismissing that defence.

what concerned me more, though, is that the defence presented this couple as being happily married. evidence was provided to this effect, in the form of cards that were exchanged & other statements. given that the evidence he had abused her previously was withheld from the court (and i have no problem with that), i don't see how the defence could introduce evidence trying to prove they had a happy marriage. especially when 1) this was known to be false and 2) the prosecution would be unable to rebut it because they couldn't introduce evidence of the abuse.

i'm not a lawyer, so it's quite possible i'm missing something important. i accept that people have the right to a full defence, and the right to use any defence that is legally available to them. but surely there must be some limit on a defence that is clearly known to be false, on the basis that the jury are being misled? i don't know, it just doesn't seem right to me.

nor does it seem right that the accused could give interviews to the media, presenting himself as a helpless victim of circumstances. the sunday star times article is here, and reaction to it is here. why exactly is this allowed to happen, when the case hasn't even come to trial yet? even if he was only an accused person at that stage who might have been innocent, it's just wrong.

11 comments:

Deborah said...

I don't think I so much wrote a piece as had an immediate reaction...

I'm curious about that too. Why is is possible to give a defence that is plainly false? I don't know enough about the law to know whether judges are able to disallow some lines of defence.

I'm probably not just curious. I'm angry about it too.

Psycho Milt said...

From the linked article: Meads says "I'm not a killer." Which is obviously false, seeing as the interview was about him killing someone. I expect a man that capable of denying reality is entirely capable of imagining that he was happily married and wanting his defence presented on that basis - still doesn't explain why the court should allow it, though.

Deborah said...

More on the of things we just don't understand with respect to this horrible crime, Paul Litterick is wondering why the Sensible Sentencing Trust hasn't had anything to say about it yet.

Hugh said...

What's the risk of allowing him to present a blatantly untrue defense? Unless you think the jury are going to buy it.

stargazer said...

uh, the jury don't know it's blatantly untrue because the truth is not allowed to be presented. the domestic violence wasn't in the public arena until after the verdict.

Hugh said...

It's possible to prove that the couple had an unhappy marriage without bringing up the abuse. I'm guessing that there was other evidence - arguments, nights spent apart, angry emails and letters, etc etc.

But whether or not they had a happy marriage seems irrelevant to whether or not he'd be found guilty? So even if they accept it, does it make a difference to the outcome of the trial?

Or is the concern less that he might be found not guilty, and simply that it's unseemly to have people asserting things that are untrue in a public arena?

Bryce said...

the defense has more latitude with introducing evidence than the prosecution. the prosecution certainly cant introduce hearsay evidence although im sure the defense can. something silly to do with the defendant being presumed innocent i expect.

stargazer said...

@ bryce, so it's ok to allow hearsay evidence that is known to be false?

@ hugh, the "happy marriage" thing was closely tied to the main defence that he didn't mean to pull the trigger, & had only meant to frighten her with the shotgun. so it was all about "we were so happy together, nothing ever went wrong in our marriage, so how could i possibly have wanted to kill her". it may or may not have made a difference - in this case, it possibly didn't because of other evidence. still don't think it should be allowed.

Hugh said...

I'd say that in a marriage as happy as he claims theirs was he's almost equally unlikely to be attempting to frighten her with a shotgun as he is to try and kill her with it. I'm not an expert but I think that threatening somebody with a loaded, un-safetied gun and killing them as a result counts as murder, not manslaughter. (Manslaughter is, in my understanding, more like I left the gun lying around loaded and un-safetied and somebody else tripped over it and died).

But moving away from the specifics of the case I guess my biggest concern with what you are suggesting is how what is and isn't true, and thus available as a defense, gets determined. It may be quite clear cut in this case, but often the truth is quite elusive. Either it's left to the discretion of a judge, in which case there is a risk that the judge has too much power, or it's something that can be contested by the defendant and the complainant, presumably with help from their lawyers, before the judge makes a call - in which case you have effectively set up a parallel court system to determine how the regular court system is run.

stargazer said...

except hugh, there was already some kind of process to determine that evidence of abuse would be suppressed. i don't see why, when that knowledge is clearly available, that the defence could also not present this marriage as a happy one. i don't think it's complicated or a parallel system at all.

Hugh said...

Well I guess if the process to determine that things should be withheld on the basis of not being true was robust and not simply up to the discretion of the judge, I'd be comfortable with that.

I really would hope that the "our marriage was happy" argument wouldn't sway the jury. Even if it was actually true it still doesn't mean murder wasn't committed.

And I would like to think that even if the pattern of abuse isn't a determining factor in whether or not he's found guilty that the judge will take it into account in sentencing.