5 Jun 2009

Bain jury facing 'formidable task'

6:02 am on 5 June 2009

The jury in the retrial of David Bain has retired for the day and will begin deliberations on Friday morning.

David Bain, 37, is accused of shooting his father Robin, mother Margaret, brother Stephen and sisters Arawa and Laniet in their Dunedin home on 20 June 1994.

The defence says Robin Bain killed the family members present in the house before using the accused's rifle to shoot himself.

The jury initially retired just before 4.30pm on Thursday, but was recalled by Justice Panckhurst within an hour to clarify issues raised by counsel.

Jurors will resume deliberations at 9am on Friday and will be sequestered until a verdict is reached.

The retrial of David Bain has been running for 13 weeks in the High Court in Christchurch, having been ordered by the Privy Council in 2007 when it quashed his original convictions.

Justice Panckhurst summarised the Crown and defence arguments on Thursday, before telling the jury of seven women and five men that they face a "formidable task".

The judge told the jury it should look carefully at incest allegations made by several witnesses and whether accounts by Laniet Bain were credible and reliable.

Among the questions to consider in the evidence, he said, was the alleged incest that Laniet Bain had told people about, whether she had had a baby and whether the father of any baby was a family friend, someone who raped her, or her father.

Justice Panckhurst said jurors must not allow emotions to interfere with the task they now have in considering the evidence they have heard.

He told the jury he was unsure of the purpose of comments from defence lawyer Michael Reed, QC, on Wednesday, which mentioned that Mr Bain is now 37, and that he might leave the court penniless if cleared.

He said if that was meant to evoke sympathy, the jury must remember that its task is to be approached in a cool, calm and dispassionate way.

He told the panel of seven women and five men that it must make a fair and wise judgement, uninfluenced by emotional considerations.

Justice Panckhurst said his predecessor, Justice Williamson, posed the question when beginning his summing up in the 1995 trial - "Was it Robin or was it David?" That question, he said, captures the ultimate issue in the case.

Complex evidence

Justice Panckhurst then began addressing the complexities of expert evidence the jury has heard over the past three months.

Beginning with the evidence on David Bain's paper run, which relates to determining the time the computer in the Bain family house was turned on, he said there was little need for the jury to go through that evidence with a fine-tooth comb.

He said there was a clear trend that various newspapers were delivered earlier than normal on the morning the Bain family members were murdered.

However, the judge said, Mr Bain has said he completed his paper run as normal, starting about 5.45am and getting home at 6.40am.

He was seen by several witnesses, although the times of those sightings also had complications, as their watches and in-car clocks were not synchronised.

Computer message

Inside the Bain house the computer was found to have a message typed on it that read: "Sorry you are the only one who deserved to stay".

There is debate about what time the computer was switched on and whether Mr Bain could have completed his paper run and been home in time to do that.

Justice Panckhurst told the jury that calculating that time had complications in the subsequent testing of the computer; essentially, how long it took to turn on the computer and how long it had been running when it was discovered by police.

He said the evidence heard in this trial showed there were a lot of variables that then had to be taken into consideration to determine exactly what time the computer was turned on.

Justice Panckhurst said it remained for the jury alone to assess the time computer was switched on against the time David Bain may have got home that day, and the accuracy of the witnesses versus the complex expert information.

Gloves important evidence, jury told

The jury was told that the gloves used by the killer must be highly relevant to its considerations.

In recapping the Crown argument, Justice Panckhurst talked about the bloodied gloves found in Stephen Bain's bedroom, where a frenzied fight occurred.

The defence says Robin Bain was the killer and that he went through David Bain's drawers to find the gloves. But the Crown case has been that David Bain used the gloves to mask his fingerprints on the murder weapon.

Bain met by media, friends

David Bain was met by a throng of media and a group of friends as he arrived at the High Court in Christchurch on Thursday.

Mr Bain refused to speak to waiting media, and inside the courthouse said "see you later" to friends as he went into the ground floor holding cells.