1. The investigative process of a homicide is quite involved. Given the seriousness of the crime, the complexity of the criminal trial to follow, and the need of society to find the person who committed the crime, police investigators are put in the difficult position of having to be quite meticulous in nature with how they deal with homicide investigations.
The initial response is the first step of the process. This is the time in the process where investigators attempt to figure out what they are dealing with. The first step is identifying whether a murder has even taken place. If a death appears to be suspicious, the next job of investigators is securing the crime scene. In this part of the process, investigators are both collecting information and ensuring that potential suspects do not escape. Once it is clear any suspects on the premises have been apprehended, officers identify and speak with any potential witnesses that may have information on either what happened or who was responsible. What investigators specifically ask will depend on the nature of the crime. In some cases, the goal will be figuring out what happened to a person who has died. In other cases—like when the victim has bullet or stab wounds—what happened is obvious, and the goal is determining who did it and why.
After it is determined for sure that the death is suspicious, investigators will begin to comb the crime scene for evidence. If it is confirmed as a homicide, the next step is to move on to secondary inquiries. Investigators work to piece together all of the evidence, including witness statements, any confessions, physical evidence, and the like. Background inquiries are also made during this time. The victim’s background is investigated, a potential offender profile is developed. This helps the investigators come up with a primary suspect. Once that suspect is identified, detained, and questioned, information is gathered to allow the offender to be charged. From there, the police and CPS work together to build the case against the suspect that has been arrested and charged.
2. One ground for appeal may come from the existence of medical evidence in favor of the defendant. In this case, the fact that the defendant may have been suffering from some sort of condition that kept the defendant from operating in good health is a major factor. In fact, there was extensive medical history in play in this case in which the defence had multiple parties willing to testify as their opinion on the implications of the coughing fits.
The reconstructed evidence could also serve as an issue for appeal. The Crown attempted to use reconstruction of the crime scene and crime. They even conducted their own test that was supposed to simulate the conditions under which the crime took place. However, the defence has strong arguments that because proper procedure was not followed by the Crown in obtaining this evidence, the evidence is of no value to the jury. Likewise, the defence presented its own evidence of the car having a unique steering bias that may have caused the issues, thus helping to negate in some ways the Crown’s case.
The statements of Greg King provide ample ground for challenging the case on appeal, as well. King’s testimony about a conversation that took place over fish and chips was interesting, but there are reasons why the probative value of this evidence was less than it otherwise might have been. In particular, it is clear that King gave many prior inconsistent statements. In fact, there were three different statements from King given as to what the applicant said to him. This is critical because it allows room to dispute the utility of this evidence, giving the applicant great ground for appeal.
3. There are many ways to potentially prevent these errors in the future. As for the first error, the Crown could conduct a more thorough analysis of the medical records of people who are under suspicion. This is a very easy fix, as it just requires one to do some digging. If the Crown is going to base its theory of the case on the idea that one could not black out in the way it was argued by the defence, then there must not be a bunch of experts willing to testify as to the history of the applicant in this way.
When it comes to the reconstruction evidence, it is critical that when investigators go out and conduct tests, they do so with full due diligence. Conducting surveys of the ground will play a critical role in ensuring the results have validity for the jury. In addition, these things might not even be necessary. As a rule, the Crown did not need this kind of evidence to win its case, but instead, the Crown just decided to use this evidence in order to harden its strong position. It might be better to not use this evidence at all if it cannot be done the right way.
The prior inconsistent statements of Greg King are difficult to avoid. Witnesses will often tell different stories, especially in cases that meander slowly through the criminal justice system. The Crown has to make a decision not to use witnesses who have given these statements. This undermines credibility for the police and the prosecutors alike, making it much more difficult to win the case even in those instances when the Crown has succeeded in proving a strong case.
4. The media played an important role in this case, as it does with many cases, influencing the outcomes overall. The media first helped to shape the case through its initial reporting on the deaths. The old saying that if it bleeds, it leads rang true in this instance. The media began looking for a nefarious angle from the beginning, taking advantage of a story that ultimately began to captivate an entire nation. One of the ways the media impacted the trial was by providing an avenue for the public to put pressure on the Crown to obtain a conviction. The Crown was extremely interested in putting someone in jail for the crime because the public seemed to be outraged by what took place. The media helped to stoke this flame by running with the story early and continuing to push the story over time. As more people got wind of what took place, and as the media helped to push the narrative that the children had been killed, more people were able to put pressure on the Crown through their use of local media.
This may have caused the Crown to be more harsh and aggressive than the Crown would have liked to have been in this case. In fact, it can be argued that the media attention and pressure even pushed the Crown to take chances in the case that would not have been taken otherwise. The Crown put on evidence from witnesses who were risky, but they were high profile. Ultimately the influence of the media turned the trial into something of a circus rather than keeping it the serious affair that it might have been without the overwhelming influence of the media all along. The media’s role was continuous and gratuitous over time.
- Brookman, F. (2005). Understanding Homicide. London: SAGE Publications
- Garner, H. (2014). Why did Robert Farquharson take an evil turn on that country road?. The Australian. Retrieved from http://www.theaustralian.com.au/life/weekend-australian-magazine/why-did-robert-farquharson-take-an-evil-turn-on-that-country-road/story-e6frg8h6-1227024398116
- Medew, J. (2006). ‘Tragic accident or wicked revenge’. The Age. Retrieved from http://www.theage.com.au/news/national/tragic-accident-or-wicked-revenge/2006/08/17/1155407956875.html?page=fullpage
- Tyson, D. (2009). Questions of guilt and innocence in the Victorian Criminal trial of Robert Farquharson and the fact before theory internet campaign. Current Issues In Criminal Justice, 21(2), 181-204.