The Sheriff of Queensland’s District Court has been granted permission to contact a jury which convicted two men to investigate “suspected bias” by a juror.
Brisbane District Court Judge Deborah Richards on Monday authorised communication with jurors empanelled in the trial of Adam Christopher White and Jonathon Patrick Davies, who were found guilty of three counts of extortion and one of wilful damage on 4 March 2020.
Judge Richards’ extraordinary order comes after it was revealed one juror allegedly told other jurors one of the defendants was “involved in the Gold Coast Bandidos bike gang” moments after delivering guilty verdicts against both men.
As Judge Richards explains in her five-page decision: “(White and Davies) were convicted by a jury of three counts of extortion and one count of wilful damage. The jury returned a verdict at 4.48pm on 4 March 2020.
“On the morning of 5 March 2020 a juror contacted the jury team to express some concern regarding an incident that occurred after the jury had finished deliberating and had been discharged.
“After leaving one of the jurors, a female, apparently stated: ‘You do know who one of the defendant’s is?’ The jurors present … stated they did not.
“The female juror then proceeded to advise that one of the defendants was involved in the Gold Coast Bandidos bikie gang.”
On 6 March, Judge Richards ordered an investigation by the District Court Sheriff. On 12 March, the Sheriff provided a written report indicating that contact had been made with all the jurors by email and that only one had replied.
“After this, both (White and Davies) were sentenced,” Judge Richards said.
Since being sentenced, lawyers for the pair have requested further investigations and that contact be made with jurors pursuant to Section 70(7) of the Queensland Jury Act 1995.
The section of Act states:
“If there are grounds to suspect that a person may have been guilty of bias, fraud or an offence relating to the person’s membership of the jury or the performance of its functions as a member of a jury, the court before which the trial was conducted may authorise an investigation of the suspected bias, fraud or offence; and the seeking and disclosure of jury information for the purposes of investigation.”
Judge Richards said: “In this case there is no real suspicion that the jury, during discussion of the verdict, was infected with the knowledge that the female juror may or may not have had.
“I do hasten to add that from hearing the facts of the case and the way in which the complainants were threatened in this case, it would have been unusual for the jury not to have deducted that the defendants were members of some sort of gang without knowing any more than the facts of the case.
“There does however remain a question as to whether the female juror obtained the knowledge of the association after the verdict of before the verdict.”
Lawyers for White and Davies submitted there were a number of features of the jury investigation that caused concern, in particular the “mode of communication” and the lack of follow-up communication with the juror who raised the issue of their own volition and indicated a willingness to co-operate with any investigation.
“I do accept … that the communication to the jurors should have been more direct in its inquiry,” Judge Richards said. “The (Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions) accepts that it is within the discretion of the court to make a further order and accordingly I will authorise the Sheriff to contact the juror to make further enquiry.”
Judge Richards, as part of her orders, authorised the Sheriff to contact the jurors via “email or text message” and ask them the following questions:
- Whether, before arriving at a verdict on the trial, they gained any knowledge outside the evidence in the courtroom about either or both defendants either personally of through others?
- If the answer to (1) is yes, what was the information and did they share that information with any other juror … and did it influence their verdict?
Judge Richards ordered the Sheriff investigate the matter and prepare a report for the court within 14 days.
Read the decision.