David Bain trial judge tells jury: Put 'baggage' aside

By Edward Gay, agencies

The judge in the David Bain murder trial has told the jury they must put any "baggage" to one side and approach the case with an open mind.

Bain pleaded not guilty to five charges of murder at the start of the trial in the High Court at Christchurch this morning.

He was read the five charges by the registrar and answered not guilty to each one in a steady voice with his hands by his side.

Bain is being retried in the High Court at Christchurch for the murder of his parents and three siblings in Dunedin in June 1994 - killings that rocked New Zealand at the time, and have continued to fascinate.

Judge Graham Panckhurst told the jury: "I appreciate that having been selected to serve on this jury is a significant moment.

"What is required of you is to make an entirely fresh start."

He said a lot has been written on the case, including books, but jurors must not seek out information from other sources.

"All that you've read, heard or seen is to be discarded," Justice Panckhurst said.

He said the onus to prove the murder charge rests with the Crown, which must prove it beyond reasonable doubt.

Arthur Allan Thomas, who was wrongly convicted for the 1970s killings of a Waikato farming couple, was at court today to support Bain.

Smiled

Earlier Bain, who smiled at media but made no comment as he arrived at court earlier, stood throughout the jury selection process.

The 12 members of the jury were selected from a pool of 80 potential jurors in a crowded court room with defence lawyers using three of their allowed challenges to possible jury members and the prosecution using two of theirs.

Justice Panckhurst said he had no doubt that potential jurors were aware of the case but if they had any personal connections to people who served as police officers in Dunedin in 1994, ESR scientists, St John ambulance officers or the Cullen and Bain families, then they should approach the bench.

Justice Pankhurst said there would be 150 Crown witnesses called during the trial.

Four potential jurors did approach the bench and three were excused - two because they had a potential connection to witnesses and one for medical reasons.

The Crown was due to make it opening statements at about noon.

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