(o+) Blog Again Distorts Facts: the Assassination Plot Trial
The Coupfourpointfive blog has published the names and some personal details of the five assessors in the Assassination trial. To what purpose, we can only guess but my guess is that it's a form of intimidation. My understanding is that the the identity of jurors in a NZ trial are deliberately not made public for this very reason. The blog then went on to distort two important facts relating to the selection of the assessors and their implied bias.
In what can only be seen as manipulation of the facts (or ignorance and manipulation by the person supplying the facts), Coupfourpointfive condemned the appoint of the court assessors on the grounds that they were chosen by the the Chief Registrar of the High Court, former army lawyer Major Ana Rokomokoti.
As the blog knows full well, many government positions have been filled by army personnel, often because otherwise suitably qualified people would not apply for senior positions due to Australian and NZ travel sanctions. And as those advising the blog should also know, the Registrar did not "choose" the assessors.
The Criminal Procedure Decree 2009 spells out quite clearly (208-2) how accessors are chosen. They are selected from a list of 160 people (gazetted at least three weeks before the trial, revised and gazetted again at least three days before the trial to allow lawyers on both sides to vet them) in "rotation in the order in which their names appear on the list" and both prosecution and defence lawyers can object to any one of them (224-1 and 2).
Coupfourpointfive then stated that "at least three of the assessors or their family have close acquaintance with Commodore Bainimarama, either through friendship or as a former student of Marist Brothers High School. Bainimarama is an ex-student." The implication was that their verdict was therefore biased. In a small city where many families know each other, this is hardly surprising but, if the relationship was "close" as claimed, section 224-3 expressly states that the “The Court shall decline to permit an assessor to serve on a case if the judge is satisfied that the grounds the objection are properly based upon (a) the relationship, by whatever means, between the assessor and the accused person, or any other person associated with the trial of the matter.. [or] (c) any proven or possible propensity for the assessor to favour either party for whatever reason …[or] (d) any other matter which the court is satisfied in the interests of justice, should disqualify the assessor.”
I'd be surprised if more than one Coupfourpointfive publisher and the person who supplied them with the accessors' names did not also know at least one of the assessors or their family -- or been to the same school. Even I know at least one person who is a close acquaintance of the Coupfourpointfive editors.
I shall have a full posting on the trial outcomes later in the week.