University to launch innocence project

by |
The University of Sydney has launched a new innocence project to review claims of wrongful conviction.

Launching in March, the Sydney Exoneration Project will combine forensic psychology and legal expertise to review cases for individuals who have met the criteria to have their conviction assessed by the project.  Undergraduate and postgraduate students in psychology and law will be able to apply to be supervised to review cases.

“Research shows eyewitness misidentification is by far the key cause of wrongful convictions, while other contributing factors can include false memories, false confessions, and laboratory error,” said founder and director Dr Celine Van Golde.

“The Sydney Exoneration Project applies forensic psychological research into memory and testimony to investigate these issues.”

The Sydney Exoneration Project said there is currently no reliable data to estimate the number of wrongful convictions in Australia but said that US researchers estimate that between 0.5 and five per cent of American convictions are recorded against innocent individuals. 

“Wrongful convictions happen in this country,” said David Hamer, associate professor of Evidence and Proof and Sydney Exoneration Project supervisor. 
“But without any real mechanism to identify and address them, Australian legal systems are left without a clear picture and means of amending miscarriages of justice.”

NSW had a DNA review panel which only lasted between 2007 and 2014 and failed to correct a single miscarriage of justice.  It only considered serious cases where producing a DNA profile would clear the defendant.

The Sydney Exoneration Project will consider cases where no DNA evidence is available, instead assessing eyewitness error and false confessions to verify a person’s innocence.

“Not Guilty: The Sydney Exoneration Project ultimately seeks social justice for those in need,” Van Golde said.
  • MICHAEL CORRELL-MALLAL on 2/03/2017 3:26:40 PM

    I think NSW Evidence Act has been changed to allow for a guilty verdict to be obtained with only 11 jurors, thus allowing for one hold-out. Victoria I think still requires unanimous guilty verdicts. Allowing for a majority only to find guilt was restricted to a grand jury of up to 23 jurors. A petit jury of 12 required unanimous voting.

  • MICHAEL CORRELL-MALLAL on 2/03/2017 11:01:31 AM

    Notice prosecution did not give possibly exculpatory evidence to the defence. This also happened in the Eastman case (ACT). Martin J said this was ''ínadvertent'' but the Eastman defence team are challenging this version of events. I'm always amazed by the para-normal ability of judges to see events with their min's-eye.

  • Mitcheal Dodd on 23/02/2016 5:36:41 PM

    My son has been wrongfully convicted of a criminal manslaughter in W.A., which he did not commit. Neither the cause of death of the female deceased nor any prior identification of her alleged killer was presented by any cogent admissible evidence by the Crown. Instead W.A alleged ENTIRELY CIRCUMSTANTIAL evidence to dissemble a motive against my son to introduce unreliable forensic material of minimum probative worth to prejudice the jury to wrongly convict my son.These fabricated allegations were inadmissible because they comprised unreliable and in parts irrelevant evidence and in any case to the extent that any parts were admissible they were more prejudicial than probative. Prior to the trial and despite direction from the court to do so, the allegedly relevant and supposedly cogent forensic evidence raised by the Crown was not given to defense for critically independent analysis. My son was clearly verballed in open court with the connivance of the district court judge by Det Snr Sgt Greg McDonald who failed to produce IN COURT the notes he claimed he took at the time of an alleged conversation with my son prior to the discovery of the remains of the deceased, when instead of producing them for the defence the Crown had him proceed orally to recount, and allegedly verbatim, the full text of the alleged conversation, which in fact never took place. The alleged conversation in any case would have breached S155 para. 2.3 2.4 C.I.A of W.A. That verballed recollection of Det Snr Sgt McDonald was admitted despite being an un-witnessed and unproven record of an otherwise un-evidenced conversation. There was in addition further more prejudicial than probative equally irrelevant evidence comprising "THE SOCK" by allegations that were compounded by further unreliable witness testimonies: six {6} different Crown witnesses each MADE three {3} inconsistent statements. No witness to the crime was alleged or gave evidence despite the evidence of an un-provenanced boot print found near her body, and on no other ground or suspicion than that Det Snr Sgt McDonald did not need to provenance the boot print {not my sons} because he 'knew' my son 'did it'. Curiously, thereafter the chain of the alleged primary DNA forensic evidence was broken by the seal on "THE TWIGS" evidence box being tampered with on 12/01/2011, being the day of my son's arrest.
    This tampering was kept hidden by the Crown until August 2012 at trial before which neither "THE SOCK" nor "THE TWIGS" were given to the defense for critical independent analysis.
    Beside tampering there was open pre-trial destruction of evidence: video record of interview edited. but not given to defense: Prosecution claimed:"we deleted most of it, because we could not use it". There was pre-trial failure to obtain relevant probative evidence relating to motive from Diva Chat telephone meta-data and other records and an indifference to potential crime scene real evidence from the boot print, whose material existence was hidden from the defence by the Crown until it came out in XXN at trial.

    The trial judge misdirected the jury on fact and law including regarding relevance and hence the admissibility of "THE SOCK".

    Also the judge refused x 3 to leave the trial at a hung jury but "enacted" a clause to allow a majority JURY decision, when the jury had shown by this lack of a unanimous verdict on three occasions that its 12 members had been unable to escape from an obvious internal confoundment at the host of unreliable and inadmissible evidence the Crown with the agreement of the judge had put before it as an all non-Aboriginal jury having no inherent cultural knowledge of relevant Aboriginal mores that are probative on the issues of motive and inferential intention arising with cultural conduct unfamiliar to non-Aboriginal sensibilities and views of common sense ideas.

    thank you
    Mitcheal Dodd

Australasian Lawyer forum is the place for positive industry interaction and welcomes your professional and informed opinion.

Name (required)
Comment (required)
By submitting, I agree to the Terms & Conditions