Terrorism trial aborted after costly homophobic slur

 

A major terrorism trial was aborted after six weeks when a homophobic slanging match broke out between the jurors.

The NSW Supreme Court jury had retired to consider its verdict in the case of a teenager accused of buying a hunting knife to murder civilians in an Islamic State-inspired attack in 2016.

But in a rare insight into the workings of the jury room, tensions boiled over after four days of deliberations during a clash involving a whiteboard and marker.

The trial ended on August 13 with one of the jury hurling homophobic slurs at the foreman, sinking the case at a huge cost to taxpayers.

The foreman told the judge in a note that a female juror had "pointed her finger at me and screwed her face up and said, 'You're just a big gay that likes to take it up the a...'".

Justice Geoff Bellew had no choice but to order a retrial after discharging the female juror.
Justice Geoff Bellew had no choice but to order a retrial after discharging the female juror.


Justice Geoff Bellew, who had earlier dismissed another member of the panel for undisclosed reasons, discharged the female juror on medical grounds. He then had no choice but to order a retrial after finding the remaining panel members could not harmoniously reach a verdict.

The defendant's solicitor Stephen Alexander said it was unlikely another attempt to hear the case would be made this year and it would be up to the Commonwealth DPP whether to prosecute the case again.

The foreman, asked by Justice Bellew to describe what happened in the jury room on August 12, explained that he had been writing the Crown Prosecutor's "18 points of conduct" on the white board when the female juror said to him: "Why don't you sit down and let another person do the writing."

When he offered her the white board marker, she replied: "I don't need to, I'm not the one who likes to hear the sound of my own voice."

Things deteriorated further when the foreman sat down and muttered under his breath the word "bitch". The woman heard him, leading her to make the homophobic insult.

After the slur, the foreman told the woman: "Well, you have really shown your true colours, now everyone here knows you're homophobic."

Justice Bellew discharged the jury after finding there was a chance of miscarriage if deliberations continued. Picture: Generic/ThinkStock
Justice Bellew discharged the jury after finding there was a chance of miscarriage if deliberations continued. Picture: Generic/ThinkStock


The female juror was then discharged on medical grounds after ­providing the court with a medical certificate saying she was "suffering from severe stress due to the deliberations of the court case".

He doctor said: "It is in her best ­interest to withdraw from jury duty immediately."

Justice Bellew asked the remaining 10 jurors if they could continue their deliberations. All but one of the jurors said yes.

However, given the dissenting view, Justice Bellew found there was a risk of a miscarriage of justice if the deliberations continued, and discharged the jury.

The case, being heard at Parramatta, has been beset with problems. After all the evidence had been heard, a jury member sent a note to Justice Bellew on Monday, August 12.

"Could you please advise the time frame honestly that we have to reach an unanimous verdict?" the juror asked. "Considering one of our jurors goes overseas on Saturday.

"If we fail to reach an unanimous verdict will we be dismissed? Or do you have the authority to call for a majority verdict?"



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