A Cry in the Night Part 2 of 3
The Jury Decides
On Monday 25 October 1982, counsel for the defence gave its closing statements. Phillips took two days to complete this task as he went over all of the evidence, answering point by point, all of the issues raised by the prosecution in its opening address to the court. There was no motive, as testified by numerous witnesses who saw Lindy as a caring and nurturing mother, and a motiveless crime was discounted by Dr. Milne who testified that Lindy had not even the mildest symptoms of post-natal depression. Experts, on the behaviour of dingoes, verified beyond a reasonable doubt the plausibility of Lindy's experience of a dingo attacking and stealing away her baby. The scientific evidence presented by the crown was unequivocally refuted by the testimony of highly qualified and experienced experts.
Barker's closing summation put to the jury that the prosecution had never claimed that it could give an explanation of motive. All it set out to do was to prove that a murder had been committed by Lindy Chamberlain, and had succeeded in doing that.
He said the dingo story was not feasible and was not supported by any other evidence. For the jury to discount the evidence of the prosecution's expert witnesses would be to put into question their entire careers. He believed that the evidence pointed overwhelmingly to a guilty verdict.
When Barker had finished, Phillips asked the jury to retire temporarily. He had some serious objections to Barker's summation. Firstly, by telling the jury that the dingo story rested totally on Lindy Chamberlain, he was ignoring the testimony of witnesses, especially that of Mrs Lowe. He had not even attempted to answer the fact that Mrs. Lowe was an independent witness to Azaria still being alive after she had been put to bed. He was misleading the jury. The second point was that he had put an unrealistic burden upon the jury by stating that by not accepting the evidence of the prosecution's expert witnesses, they would in effect be judging their professional integrity. Muirhead indicated that he agreed with Phillips and would make these points clear to the jury.
On Thursday 28 October 1982, Justice Muirhead addressed the jury. It would take him two days. He asked that the jury consider carefully all of the evidence put before them, remembering that any reasonable doubt was enough to prevent them from handing down a guilty verdict. He went over all of the details of the information about the propensity of dingoes to be predatory in their habits, even with humans. In regards to scientific evidence there was much disagreement between these experts, all qualified in their fields. In this case they are not dealing with unequivocal, unchallenged opinion; each scientist had their own opinion, which should cause the jury to be cautious. The jury will not convict on this circumstantial evidence unless it is so strong as to be inconsistent with any other reasonable hypothesis.
In regard to the evidence of character, Muirhead implored the jury to carefully consider the testimony of a number of people that showed the Chamberlains to be caring and kind people, who have never been in trouble with the law in the past. While it was possible for people to commit crime for the first time, the jury must use the testimony of these witnesses as a background when asking themselves, could this mother carry out a sudden homicidal attack on her baby?
In regard to the camera bag and the car, the jurors must ask themselves would it be reasonable to expect a couple to keep such proof of their guilt? If it were guilty, would they not have discarded the camera bag and sold the car, or at the very least had them thoroughly scrubbed? Would they have left the scissors in the car if it were a murder weapon? He reminded them that the car had been exposed to months of heat and had been inspected early in the investigation.
He reserved comment about Sally Lowe until last. It is up to the jury how much they believe Mrs Lowe's testimony. If they did believe her that she heard a baby's cry that night, then the only thing they could do was to draw the conclusion that Azaria was still alive, and not, as the Crown asserts, lying dead in the car.
As the jurors entered the courtroom after their deliberations, their eyes were averted, not looking at Lindy and Michael as they made the slow procession to their seats. The foreman stood and the two women jurors beside him wept as he pronounced the verdict of the jury. Guilty!
The colour drained from Lindy's face as the judge committed her to imprisonment for "as long as she shall live."