Monday, February 17, 2014

Mark Standen appeal says trial was unfair due to jury's low morale


Court Reporter

The extraordinary length of the trial of former top police officer Mark Standen caused such low morale among the jury that they could not give him a fair hearing, he will claim during his appeal.

After a five-month trial, the jury found Standen, a former assistant director of the NSW Crime Commission, guilty of conspiring to import and supply 300 kilograms of pseudoephedrine as well as using his position to pervert the course of justice.

Mark Standen: Sentenced to at least 16 years in jail. Photo: Wolter Peeters

Standen is appealing the 2011 conviction, arguing the judge should have discharged the jury on the 68th day of the trial after the 12 jurors sent a note detailing their ''extreme concerns'' at the emotional, physical and financial impact it was having on their lives.

The trial's estimated eight to 14-week duration had proven woefully short. At week 15, the defence case had just got under way, and the jurors feared ''being here for an infinite period of time''.

The jury had already complained 11 times before sending the note, which told how three jurors who lost their jobs before the trial started were prevented from looking for work and one had to move house because she could not afford her rent on the jury salary.

''We do not deny the accused has a right to a fair trial but ask that our rights to earn a living, seek employment, look after our families, go on vacation and plan our lives are taken into equal consideration,'' the note said.

Standen's counsel Mark Ierace, SC, applied for a discharge, saying the juror's unhappiness could adversely affect their consideration of the defence case and there would be ''a strong temptation for the jury, consciously or unconsciously, to hasten their deliberations so as to put an end to their hardship''.

Justice Bruce James rejected the application, saying the jurors' primary concern was uncertainty about the length of the trial and this would be alleviated by informing them it would probably go for another three months.

In documents filed with the NSW Court of Criminal Appeal, Standen claims the letter shows the jury to be so discontented their capacity to properly consider the evidence must have been affected. ''It was a unanimous plea to be discharged,'' the appeal documents say. ''From that point onwards the trial was not a lawful trial.''

Standen is also appealing on the ground that Justice James' summing up to the jury was ''not fair, balanced and impartial''.

Standen was sentenced to at least 16 years in jail for conspiring with others to import and supply 300 kilograms of pseudoephedrine, used to make the illicit drug methamphetamine, between January 1, 2006 and June 2, 2008.

The Crown alleged Standen was the ''eyes and ears'' of the group to ensure they were not detected by authorities.

On appeal, his lawyers will argue some of the evidence should have been excluded because it was more prejudicial than probative, and some came from ''dubious sources'' such as criminals.
Standen has been granted Legal Aid funding for the appeal.