The Pre-trial Media Circus
The Zircon Task Force was established to investigate the murders of Hancock and Lewis and crush the Gypsy Jokers. Superintendent Dave Caporn as the head of the task force took every opportunity to tell the public through the media that they would be bringing the killers to justice and all other crimes committed by the Gypsy Jokers. Every citizen of Western Australia would have undoubtedly been left with a presumption of guilt for any member prosecuted by the task force. Yet when an application to hold the trial in another state was submitted it was rejected.
The Trial Venue
Picture if you will the venue as viewed by a member of the jury. Not only is there the media hype surrounding the case but when you turn up to court the court is surrounded by Tactical Response police all armed with automatic weapons. While the court case is in session plain clothes police are sitting on the right with the alleged victim's family and down the aisle between the accused family and friends on the left (in a "protective" pattern), all the while the Tactical Response officers are visible through the windows near the ceiling of the court room patrolling the roof.
For anyone to render an unbiased decision under these circumstances is pure hypocrisy. What is unclear at this stage is a report that the members of the jury were allowed to return home each day and were only "locked away" for the duration of the verdict. If this is correct then the display of force was for effect and not one of protection, and access to media reports by the jury, either intentional or not, was bound to further the prosecution's case.
Ken Bates was the prosecutor in Gary's case. On the eve of the trial Mr Bates drove to Northam to visit a key witness that placed Gary at a bonfire where Anthony Tapley's body was allegedly burned. The witness, Mr Wayne Morgan, lived on the property adjacent to property where the alleged burning took place. Gary never denied being at a barbeque on the property in July at the time Mr Morgan originally said he was there. It was a family affair with friends and their families, including many children that can be verified by the local shop that sold many lollies that day. However Mr Morgan's original statement did not support the Crown's case as there had been many sightings of Tapley after the date he said the bonfire had occurred. So Ken convinced Mr Morgan to change his statement at the last minute to better suit the Crown's case. Fresh evidence has been found since the trial that refutes the time line that was submitted by this witness in court but confirms his original statement. If Mr Morgan is reading this then he should correct the record now or face possible perjury charges later.
Also another witness Pamela Yates originally stated that Anthony was alive on the 26th August 2001 but was in fear of his life having just been assaulted and dragged into the bush by three aboriginal persons, chained to a tree and beaten over a drug related incident. One had a gun and they let him go free after a phone call (which would have decided his fate). She also indicated that Tapley was going to "come clean" and wrote a letter to his lawyer regarding what was going on, in an effort to stay out of gaol. Ms Yates was told by Tapley that it involved "bent cops." However in subsequent interviews she changed the time she last saw Tapley (give or take 14 days).
But is was not so much as what the prosecutor did as to what he didn't do. Gary's personal records (which he kept fastidiously) were taken from Gary during one of many raids and were never returned to him, including his diary. The excuse given to Gary is it has been misplaced.
Recorded conversations involving Reid and his girlfriend clearly showed the tension between Reid and Gary but were not made available to the defense along with many other tapes acquired during task force monitoring of the Gypsy Jokers.
The original confessions by Reid regarding the Tapley murder were inexplicably not taped. In an unconnected case Andrew Mallard was convicted and imprisoned for 12 years by Ken Bates using the same investigating policemen, but was found to be innocent and released. The police have been stood down pending an investigation by the Crime and Corruption Commission into the fabrication of evidence. But what about Mr Bates?
Clearly the personal approach by the prosecutor in changing Mr Morgan's statement is clearly contrary to the public policy considerations behind the separation of powers between investigating and prosecuting authorities.
In a recent "Australian Story" on the ABC a prominent Western Australian QC stated that the WA prosecution used "blinkers" when prosecuting serious offences. They mold evidence that suits their cause and disregard any details that does not support their view.
The Defence Attorney
Gary was represented by a prominent Perth Barrister named Ron Cannon at trial. "My first serious mistake on my part, but when one is an innocent person one doesn't even entertain the possibility of being convicted so I saw no need of engaging a high-priced QC from over East" as Gary put it.
Cannon was 74 years of age and seriously ill at the time, although Gary did not become aware of his state of health until after the conviction. He now possesses documented evidence that he was not well during the course of the trial. Cannon would not take written or verbal instructions, which is contrary to the long establish rule of professional practice, and he failed to ask crucial question during the cross examination of Reid.
In fact, an example of the inadequacy of his cross examination can be demonstrated by a comparison between how Reid was cross examined by his Counsel, and how Reid was cross examined by Collin Lovitt QC in the Slater trial. Cannon cross examined Reid for a total of one hour and forty five minutes, whereas Lovitt cross examined Reid for seven days!
Given the seriousness of the case and the fact that Reid was the only witness, this was not only irresponsible but negligent. Cannon also failed to adequately challenge the so-called forensic evidence, and some witnesses he failed to ask questions at all. He failed to take issue with, or object to the admissibility of certain fragile evidence, thereby denying the opportunity of additional grounds of appeal.
He failed to object to the prosecutions manner of questioning witnesses. In fact, on numerous occasions it was the trial judge who had to intervene and rebuke the trial prosecutor for leading witnesses.
Gary often wanted to dismiss his Counsel as he felt his performance was not good enough but was reassured by Mr Cannon that all was going well, and so agreed to continue as he was not a legal expert and, although skeptical, had to trust his Counsel's experience, advice and assessment.