Gerard Baden-Clay Appeals against Conviction for Murder of Wife – Criminal Law Case File
In August 2014, we wrote a series of articles about the trial of Gerard Baden-Clay, the man convicted of murdering his wife in 2012. Following a 5 week trial before the Supreme Court Baden-Clay was on 15 July 2014 found guilty of the offence of murdering his wife and was sentenced to life imprisonment.
This article is correct as of August 2015.
Very unsurprisingly, Baden-Clay appealed against his conviction. We say that it is unsurprising because virtually all defendants who are convicted of murder will appeal against their conviction. This is for a number of reasons, as follows:
- Firstly, they don’t have anything to lose. They have been sentenced to life imprisonment and even if their appeal is unsuccessful they will not receive any harsher sentence because there is no harsher sentence.
- Secondly, murder is the most serious offence known to law. Therefore, it is in the defendant’s (as well as the community’s interest) to ensure that the conviction was correct. It would be a terrible thing to live in a society where innocent people run the risk of being wrongly convicted of a crime, particularly one as serious as murder.
What is the Court of Appeal?
The Court of Appeal is the highest Court in Queensland and is made up of a rotation of three Supreme Court Judges. If an appeal is unsuccessful before the Court of Appeal the final avenue of appeal is in the High Court in Canberra.
On 7 August 2015 Baden-Clay appeared before the Court of Appeal to argue against his conviction. The decision has been reserved, meaning that the Judges require further time to provide their decision.
For a matter of this size, I would expect that a decision will be provided in the next 3-4 months.
What is usually argued at an appeal?
As explained in a previous article, there are several common categories that defendants will rely upon in their appeal. These are referred to as ‘grounds of appeal’. The first common ‘ground of appeal’ is that (having regard to all of the evidence) it was unreasonable for a jury to convict the defendant.
This is a very general ground which requires the appeal court to look at all of the evidence as a whole and deliberate on the verdict. It effectively means putting themselves in the position of the jury and deciding whether the defendant is guilty or not guilty.
Another common ground of appeal is that the defendant did not receive a fair trial because the judge made an error in allowing or disallowing evidence to be placed before the jury.
What did Baden-Clay argue?
If Baden-Clay is successful on the first ground of appeal below, it would lead to a complete acquittal and he would walk away a free man. If he is successful on one or more of the first, second or fourth grounds then he will win a re-trial, meaning that the trial is conducted all over again with a new jury.
His four ‘grounds of appeal’ were as follows:
- The verdict of murder was unreasonable
This is a very general ground of appeal and is made up of many distinct arguments to attempt to demonstrate that the jury should never have reached a guilty verdict. Baden-Clay argued that the possibility that he argued with his wife, they engaged in a physical struggle, she fell and fatally injured herself and then he panicked could not have been excluded by a jury.
Baden-Clay suggested that after accidentally killing Allison, he hid his wife’s body under a bridge and pretended the scratches on his face were razor cuts because he was afraid it would look like murder.
In support of this, it was argued that there was no evidence that there had ever been any violence between Baden-Clay and Allison. It was further argued that the evidence that Baden-Clay was involved in an affair with another woman and that placed pressure on Baden-Clay was not supported by the evidence.
It was also argued that Baden-Clay’s financial affairs (which the Crown said gave him the motive to kill Allison because it would allow him access to an insurance payout) was not as dire as the Crown made it out to be during the trial.
This is a very difficult ground of appeal to succeed on because it is accepted by the courts that the original jurors have the best opportunity to observe, analyse and critique the evidence. The Court of Appeal judges can only read typed transcripts of the trial and often a lot of important evidence is not captured properly this way.
As mentioned above, if he wins on this ground the court will enter a verdict of not guilty and he will walk as a free man.
- The trial was unfair because the jury was not directed on evidence relating to the presence of Allison’s blood in the car
During the trial, the Crown pointed out that Allison’s blood had been located in her own car. At the appeal, Baden-Clay argued that the judge should have explained to the jury that Allison’s blood could have been left in the car at any time and not necessarily at the time of her death. That is, that the blood could not be aged by any scientific method.
- The trial judge was wrong in not directing the jury over evidence relating to the placement of Allison’s body at Kholo Creek
Baden-Clay argued that the trial judge should have told the jury that leaving Allison under the bridge at Kholo Creek did not necessarily indicate that he had a guilty conscience; rather, it was something that he may have done out of panic.
- The trial judge was wrong in leaving to the jury that Baden-Clay attempted to disguise marks on his face by making razor cuts
Baden-Clay argued that the scratches on his face, even if they were fingernail scratches, did not reveal why Allison scratched him. Furthermore, he argued that there were no marks on Allison which would indicate an intentional killing and that this instead showed an unintentional killing or an accident.
This was central to his argument that there was a possibility that there was a struggle, Allison fell and fatally injured herself and then he panicked and dumped her body.
If you’re needing assistance with matters concerning assault and offences of violence, Cridland & Hua are the specialists amongst Brisbane Law Firms, practising exclusively in criminal and quasi-criminal law. Contact us today.