Court denies request for jury probe into prison murder case

A SUPREME Court justice, who has fears about jeopardising the time-honoured jury system, is not convinced a juror's conversation with his barber meant he investigated the criminal histories of men in a Rockhampton murder trial.

Justice Roslyn Atkinson was asked to consider whether she should allow a Queensland sheriff to put questions to jurors involved in convicting three men of the 1999 death of Robert James Buckley at the old Etna Creek Prison.

The trio's lawyers argued there were grounds to suspect a juror had searched the internet and found out about the accused men's criminal convictions before verdict.

They had tendered 40 print articles and 47 broadcasts transcripts as proof of material in the public domain.

Justice Atkinson refused to allow lawyers to probe jurors, arguing in a written dismissal that the juror could have discovered the previous convictions through media reporting of the sentence.

"There is nothing in what he said to the barber which suggests he knew before the verdict was reached that the applicants were already serving life terms or long terms of imprisonment," she said.

"His very words suggest he took notice of the judge's directions about not discussing the case with anyone else during the trial.

"There was no impediment to any juror accessing that information after verdict and it is extremely likely that they would have done so, given the keen interest they would have had in the outcome."

Mark Dempsey Knight, Wesley Robert Williams and Wayne Thomas Robertson were found guilty after a trial in April of murdering the 23-year-old in 1999.

Buckley was found dead, hanging by a towel from a window in a shower block at the prison.

It was the second trial the men had faced, after the Court of Appeal set aside initial guilty verdicts and ordered a retrial.

Justice Atkinson said she was not satisfied there were any grounds to suspect a juror might be guilty to fraud, bias or an offence related to their duty during the second trial.

Justice Atkinson, during the application in September, said the legislation giving her discretion to make the order was born after the now infamous Joh Bjelke-Petersen jury saga.

The Bjelke-Petersen 1991 perjury trial, which was deadlocked with a hung jury, became infamous when it was revealed the jury foreman was a member of the Young Nationals and was identified with the Friends of Joh movement.

Topics:  murder

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