A juror in the David Bain retrial tells David Fisher about the personal effects of deciding one of New Zealand's most controversial cases.
A juror in the David Bain trial has spoken of her trauma, being approached by anti-Bain protesters and a personal moment she shared with the man she helped to set free.
She has also talked of the pressures the three-month trial placed on jury members - "I spent the first few weeks in floods of tears" - and the "massive" responsibility they felt.
The juror said she never considered the impact a not-guilty verdict would have on Bain until she accidentally met him outside the courthouse.
The juror and her fiance approached the
Herald on Sunday
on Friday evening after a chance encounter on a Christchurch street. She wanted to explain the pressures the jury faced over the trial, but was clear that the interview would not touch on deliberations in the jury room, or evidence that was presented in court.
New Zealand's justice system does not allow media to approach jurors. It also bars jurors from talking about the reasons for their verdicts.
The interview was recorded and a copy provided to the jury member, who read this story to approve it for accuracy.
She was with the
Herald on Sunday
as the day's events sank in and spoke of the moment she realised the significance of the decision to find Bain not guilty.
A few jurors, with support people, had left the court to go to a pub by the Avon River, only to find themselves in the midst of the media scrum and excited public surrounding Bain. When she found herself face to face with Bain, she was astonished that he leaned over and gave her a hug.
"I didn't realise [the impact on his life] until that happened."
She had avoided looking at Bain as the verdicts were read out, and did not see him become overwhelmed by emotion.
"Now, just thinking about it ... what does it feel like for him? The process has been so stressful for me I couldn't sit there and think about David and what he would feel like because then I would become emotionally involved."
She said each juror had been approached by someone convinced Bain was guilty. Two weeks in she was tackled by a man in a lift who said: "He's guilty, look at the bloody evidence."
She understood people's reactions because it was a case that aroused passions but even those who watched the whole trial from public or press galleries had less information available to them than the jury.
"I don't feel like they have a right to comment. We have it on hand, right there, and we understand from a different perspective because it is all diagrammed up for us and we can look at it and, really, I understand it intimately. If I didn't have that I wouldn't be able to form the opinion I had."
In some ways the lawyers cancelled each other out, she said.
"If you go to a debate you will be 100 per cent convinced when the first debating team gets up and 100 per cent convinced when the next one team gets up. You have to take what you believe is true... the other stuff is neither here nor there. The evidence speaks for itself."
The juror is a mother of two, a recent graduate of a BSc and currently completing a separate law degree. The length of the case has put that degree back six months, one of many sacrifices jury members made.
She was summonsed late last year and warned the trial would go for 12 weeks.
Even when selected she was unsure which case she might be deliberating on, although had suspicions it could be the Bain retrial.
A letter days before it started confirmed she would be taking part in one of New Zealand's most controversial cases.
"I was excited because of doing a law degree and I knew I'd learn heaps. [It was] really exciting."
On the first day, the jury was flung into a murder trial that spared no detail in showing the injuries suffered by those who died.
"The horrible books [of evidence] with awful photographs. It was just bang - you couldn't get your head around it... It was just shocking."
She quickly became aware of her "serious responsibility".
"It's massive because you're looking at evidence and you're judging a mass murder trial and you can't get it wrong.
"I felt like I was invading the privacy of this family looking at this stuff. They are holding up intimate underwear and things of [the] deceased. It's shocking to see it. Just seeing the gun that killed five people - it's shocking.
The juror said it felt like the trial "would never end". Each piece of evidence was traversed at length and "double-checked and triple-checked by defence and prosecution".
"You are left in no doubt about anything. It's a massive amount of information but it is reiterated so many times. Emotionally it's been gruelling."
Later, she added: "I have cried many a time. I spent the first few weeks in floods of tears. I'm a bit immune to it now - not fully, but an immunity has built up. I can look at post-mortem shots and not fall to pieces."
The jury members became a tight band, she says. Firm friendships were made and will be kept. "Us 12 were the only ones going through it and the only ones you could talk to so you became intimate much faster than you would [usually] do."
She also said her partner had "picked up the pieces many times".
Her fiance said he collected her from court and spent "hours trying to build her up again".
"Just getting her to sleep was hard. She would have trouble sleeping. The next day, I would drop her off ... knowing that by the end of the day I was just going to have to go through this whole process again.
"It's like sending someone off to war every day. You send her off to war and she's going to be bruised and battered, and you've got to try and get her through. She so much wanted... to do her civic duty and be there and do the right thing... I can't sit back to have my bad days. She's just going through things that I can't fathom."
The juror said being bound by court rules became a powerful factor in her daily routine. "You are herded in the morning and you don't have your own life. You can't decide when you need to got to the toilet."
Life outside the courtroom continued, but sometimes seemed too much, combined with jury duty.
"We're real people with real lives going on behind it so when you have an afternoon hearing of awful, awful stuff, hearing about massive fights and blood everywhere and knowing there is an actual person and victim there... it's just harrowing. You take it home and you can't stop thinking about it."
She said the jury members were "beside ourselves" when told the trial might be extended to the end of June. Some had booked holidays, others had to return to work. "There was a feeling of outrage but there's nothing you can do. You have your life taken away from you for that time."
The end of the trial also triggered a mini-rebellion among jurors. "We were told we had to go out the back. We've been shunted around and told where to go for all that time and we said 'no' ... we walked in the front as a person off the electoral roll coming in here to look at this evidence. We are walking straight out."
The juror praised the court staff who were "aware of the failing of the system" in dealing with long trials.
She also said the jury defied common criticisms of juries as being unqualified or incapable or understanding complicated evidence.
Bain's case was heard by a collection of mainly professionals, including a professional with a law degree, a Justice of the Peace, a former and a current civil servant.
"We are really lucky, there was intellect the whole way through. People you could argue with and get over it, no grudges, just air your point of view. I don't know how they got that jury but they really lucked out."
Despite the length of the trial she wouldn't hesitate to do jury service again.
"If you had a family member in that position you would want to know your peer group will get up and do the right thing... You don't want everyone to be excusing themselves."
However, she said she was grateful for the anonymity afforded jury members.
"This is David's story, it's not ours. And this is David's life and the particular circumstances he found himself in and we are just the reasonable person off the street.
"We are just bystanders in this. We came in, invaded his life and his information and made a decision on what we were presented with.
"You have to be impartial and quite dispassionate about it. That was something I struggled with to begin with. All I was there [for] is to look at the evidence and use my life knowledge and make a decision."