An Australian judge has dismissed 12 jurors deliberating a high-profile rape verdict after it was revealed that the jurors investigated the allegations and took the information to the jury room. .
Australian Capital Territory (ACT) Chief Justice Lucy McCallum said she was forced to stop the trial in light of jury behavior and plans a new trial for 20 February 2023. .
A jury spent five days trying one count of sex without consent against former Liberal Party official Bruce Lehrman, who was accused of raping then-colleague Brittany Higgins in the Capitol in March 2019. deliberated.
Lehrmann denied the charges and said no sexual intercourse took place, consensual or not.
McCollum told the court Thursday that a sheriff accidentally slammed a jury papers folder to the floor during routine cleaning of the jury room.
“As the officer lifted the box and tried to put it back in his chair, he noticed part of the title page of an academic research paper. It implied something,” McCallum said. He told the court, according to court documents.
The folder was never opened, but an online search by staff for the article’s title found it contained an analysis of the reasons for false sexual assault complaints and skepticism about true victimization. .
McCollum said in court that he had given jurors at least 17 warnings not to investigate anything other than the evidence presented to the court. The explanation was met with skepticism.
The judge said it is a crime in New South Wales to seek information about a defendant or any matter related to a trial, but there is no such law in the capital of the country where the case was heard.
“There is no such crime in the Australian Capital Territory. But there is little doubt that the jury’s actions were such as to stop the trial,” she said Thursday.
“It goes without saying that this is an unexpected and unfortunate outcome in this trial,” she added.
The 12-member juror retired to consider the verdict last Wednesday after a trial that began Oct. 3 and lasted nearly three weeks.
A jury told McCallum on Tuesday they were unable to reach a unanimous decision, but she sent them back and asked them to settle their differences. was dismissed after it was revealed.
Allegations of rape inside the Houses of Parliament were made public in early 2021, but the attack was said to have taken place after a night in Canberra in 2019. Higgins and Leahman were among a group of staff drinking at a bar in the capital.
Higgins contacted police shortly after the incident, but did not file a formal complaint as further proceedings could damage her career.
But in 2021, she told the media that the incident was discouraged from coming forward not only because of the location of the alleged attack (inside the Capitol), but also to avoid political repercussions before the 2019 elections. Morrison’s Free Nationals won.
Lehrmann was arrested and charged last year, but his trial has been postponed.
Morrison’s coalition is no longer in power after losing to Labor in May’s federal elections.