The Eye of the Fish

June 8, 2009

Lucky Break

After the last few weeks of news in NZ, we can at last get back to discussing the really important things in life, like where we might put a light rail system through Central Wellington, what we should do with parking for 40 cars in Lower Cuba St, and whether a car can indeed travel at a slow 5kph indeed, and how you would tell if it exceeded the speed limit if your speedo doesn’t start till 20kph. Far less engrossing indeed than debating how the colour of David Bain’s jerseys was a sign of an impending mass murderer, or whether a man can murder his family without taking a piss-stop, but really, the result boils down to this: just how lucky is Bain to have found the only 12 people in NZ who thought he was innocent – and have them sitting in on his jury. I haven’t met anyone all through the trial that thought he was looking anything other than very very guilty – and the rabid day-time blogs are running 100% against him, still, but the big thing for me is that no one seems to equate what the cost is in terms of things we can understand. OJ Simpson was found not guilty as well, but no one believes for a second that he was anything other than guilty. At least they asked OJ if he was guilty or not – at this bizarre trial of ours, there was only one witness who could tell what happened, and he wasn’t asked to say a single word.

There’s a legal aid bill of at least $2 million, Crown costs of many millions as well, 150 prosecution witnesses time (although none of them were even there), and with estimated costs running at up to $500,000 per day, and a trial length of 57 days, with about a year or more of pre-trial legal costs as well, we’re looking at a cost to the NZ tax-payer of some $20-$30 million for this elaborate waste of time. So what else could we do with, say, $25 million?

$25 million could build us a fairly nice, green office building in central Wellington. It could build us a new Supreme Court, or at least half the cost of doing up the old Court building so that it could sit there empty and have school children going through. It could be added to the National Library refurb cost so that WaM could do their full Monty python external glitterbug version, winking in unison with giant videos at the empty cathedral opposite. $25 million could have bought us an Inner City Bypass that was underground and therefore unimpeded by cross town traffic, and it no doubt could bring us a second tunnel through Mount Victoria to let those busy commuters zip fleetingly from city to airport. $25 million could let us do the Manners Mall upgrade twice over, so that we can get it wrong at least once and then have another crack at the cherry. $25 million could get us a seventh of a Light Rail system from the Railway Station to the Airport – that has to be at least as far as from Bunny St to Willis St, which would be better than nothing.

But we won’t have any of that, because “justice has no price.” What a load of baloney. Can you imagine saying to your client that money is no object, because “architecture has no price” ? That should go down rather well, I’d imagine (not).

8 - 06 - 09

Crikey, that was a bit ranty.
It’s worth pointing out that a verdict of ‘not guilty’ does not mean ‘innocent’. It simply means that the Crown failed to meet its burden of proof.

$25 mil for a second Mt Vic tunnel? Last I heard, Transit were saying $100 mil plus. Although I guess $25 mil is probably close to the actual cost of building it, rather than the typical outrageously inflated prices for building such things in NZ.

8 - 06 - 09

Get out of bed the wrong side this morning did we?

8 - 06 - 09

but rant well deserved, i guess. I’m somewhat amazed that while no-one seemed to think he was innocent last week, every man and every dog are barking up the compensation tree already. We are easily led, like lambs, to the slaughter. Although that may not be the best simile to use in the circumstances.

Re the cost – you could also buy 25 new flash houses for posh folk, or 100 new state houses for those less well off…

17 - 06 - 09

and while I’m posting up letters from the newspaper, there are some interesting takes on the Bain saga recently:
“Bain’s composure shows innocence”
“We didn’t need a retrial to know the guilt or innocence of David Bain. The answer has been, and always was, there for any sensible human being to see.
The very essence of Mr Bain’s body language repelled any notion of guilt. Put aside his and his family’s appearances and personal habits, Mr Bain is no murderer, let alone a multiple one.
A murderer has a certain profile and is anything but normal after the event. Thirteen years among the hardest criminals could not expose him as a murderer.
The real mystery here is how police managed to provide the evidence that saw him convicted at his first trial.
The real tragedy has to be the damage the hostility implanted into the extended Bain family (who testified against him) has caused. That is unless people believe he really did murder his family and that this time there just wasn’t enough proof beyond a reasonable doubt. Look at Mr Bain’s composure …”
Cambridge [abridged]

17 - 06 - 09

and this one, with rather an opposite view:
“A payout would insult the dead”
“I can’t help but feel that what New Zealand witnessed over the Bain retrial is its own version of the O J Simpson trial, in which the jury refused to believe the evidence.
As the judge summed up in the Bain case, either David Bain was the victim of a series of highly implausible and improbable events and coincidences, or the matter was as it stood that he murdered his family.
In delivering its verdict, the jury effectively wanted New Zealanders to believe that Robin Bain killed himself by holding the rifle to his head in an extraordinarily contorted manner and without leaving a single fingerprint and any forensic evidence.
I can hope only that the Government won’t pay any compensation to David Bain, because that would be more insulting to the slain members of the Bain family than the not-guilty verdict.”

17 - 06 - 09

and finally this one (all 3 from the Dom Post 12.6.09 :
“Ashamed of justice system”
“Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde has been acquitted of the ghastly murders of five members of his family.
This dumps all the blame for the deaths on to father Robin Bain, who is too dead to defend himself.
If this is New Zealand justice, I am ashamed to be a New Zealander. When the police went to Dunedin’s Every St in 1994, they could find not a scrap of hard evidence linking Robin to the murders. How could such a nice, polite young man like David have committed such dreadful crimes?
Immediately before the murders, the dissociation between Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde was beginning to break down.
Since then, the personality split has hardened and even the jury believe he is a nice person nice enough to hug.”

19 - 06 - 09

Bit late perhaps, I haven’t been around, but I don’t believe that any of the details of trials should be made public. We should be aware that he is on trial, and the charges, but the specifics of the case, the witnesses, and their testimony should not reported. It’s all irrelevant, and simply encourages trial by media. I wouldn’t want the Dominion Post ordering a sandwich on my behalf, let alone trying me for murder.

By all accounts, the Bain family were more like the Wests than the Waltons, and that might have been relevant to the trial, but it isn’t anything that should have been reported in the media. Some of the commentary on elements of Laniet’s life was tasteless. Most of it was poor journalism – asking neighbours to speculate, or worse, giving neighbours a speculative statement and asking for a quote.

The Bain family were victims of murder, yet they have come under more scrutiny, at times, than their alleged killer. They can’t set the record straight, and they shouldn’t have to. Their lives were ended, and their character has been questioned at 6:02 each night for a month.

Is he guilty? The public shouldn’t know enough to even speculate. We have to trust the process, and get involved in it.

Here’s a scenario. You get home from a walk and your family is dead, and you know it wasn’t you. It costs the state $25 million to keep you out of prison. We have to do these things right. What price justice? What’s an acceptable price for someone’s life? The state has a monopoly on legitimate violence. We have to do these things right, or the state’s position becomes untenable. Elections are a useful analogy.

19 - 06 - 09

Jason: thank you for the clarity; such an erudite anaylsis and the best I’ve seen on this subject. Time to close th book. Move on people, nothing to see here…