High court rejects appeal of prisoners convicted of murder

THE High Court has refused to grant special leave to three Rockhampton prisoners convicted of murdering a fellow inmate in a shower cubicle.

Mark Dempsey Knight, Wesley Robert Williams and Wayne Thomas Robertson were found guilty after a trial in April of murdering the Robert James Buckley, 23, at the old Etna Creek Prison in 1999.

Buckley was found dead, hanging by a towel from a window in a shower block at the prison.

It was the second trial the men had faced, after the Court of Appeal set aside initial guilty verdicts and ordered a retrial.

The High Court, sitting in Canberra but appearing via video-link to Brisbane, refused to hear an appeal on this second conviction for murder.

In June last year, the Queensland Court of Appeal also dismissed their appeal that suspected jury bias should be investigated and they should have access to jury information to do so.

The legislation giving a judge discretion to allow a Queensland sheriff to put questions to jurors was born after the now infamous Joh Bjelke-Petersen jury was "corrupted".

The appeal stemmed from a conversation a juror had with his barber, who later relayed it to a Legal Aid Queensland officer.

The juror told his hairdresser that he had not been able to talk about the murder case until verdict and then said something like "it wouldn't make any difference as they were already serving life terms or long terms of imprisonment already".

Justice John Muir said there was only a mere possibility the juror obtained that knowledge before verdict.

"There was nothing in the relevant conversation that suggested that the juror's knowledge of the appellants' prior criminal offences was gained before delivery of the jury's verdicts," he said.

"Nor was there anything in the conversation to suggest that the juror was not alive to, or unmindful of, his obligations as a juror.

"As the primary judge found, the juror's ¯very words suggest that he took notice of the judge's directions about not discussing the case with anyone else during the trial.

"The media coverage of the sentencing of the appellants, coupled with the juror's likely interest in the sentencing and criminal backgrounds of the appellants, arising from his role as a juror, provides a likely explanation for the juror's understanding that the appellants were ¯already serving life terms or long terms of imprisonment.

"Another possibility is that the juror remained in contact with other jurors and was told about the earlier sentences by one of them."

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