Australia

Jury discharged from Bruce Lehrmann trial

The jury in the Bruce Lehrmann rape trial has been dismissed after it was discovered one of the jurors obtained information outside the evidence presented in court.

Chief Justice Lucy McCallum said it had been discovered a juror had undertaken some research in relation to the Brittany Higgins case which had entered the jury room.

“I have received evidence that at least one juror has had access to research material that was not provided to the jury during the trial,” Chief Justice McCallum said.

She said the sheriff’s office had inadvertently discovered evidence a juror had access to research material not provided to the jury.

During routine tidying, one of the sheriffs accidentally bumped one of the juror’s document folders onto the floor.

The chief justice said when the officer picked up the box, he noticed part of the title page of an academic research paper.

Upon further investigation it was discovered the topic of the paper was sexual assault.

The chief justice said the juror in question gave an explanation suggesting the document had not been used or relied upon.

However, she said it was appropriate to regard that evidence with some scepticism.

The juror was dismissed along with the rest of the jury, who the chief justice thanked for their time.

“It is beyond question the conduct of a juror is such to abort the trial.”

Bruce Lehrmann was being tried by the ACT Supreme Court, charged with sexual intercourse without consent.

He pleaded not guilty.

The jury was dismissed following a 12-day trial and had undertaken a little more than five days of deliberations.

A new trial has been set down for February 20 next year and Lehrmann will remain on bail.

Ms Higgins made a statement to the media after the jury was dismissed.

“I chose to speak up,” she told reporters.

“Speak up against rape, speak up against injustice, to speak up and share my experiences with others.

“I told the truth no matter how uncomfortable or unflattering to the court. Today’s outcome does not change that truth.”

Defence lawyer Steven Whybrow also addressed the media outside court.

“We’re disappointed by what’s happened, but it would be inappropriate and irresponsible to say anything at this stage,” he told reporters.

Lehrmann remained silent.

The jury had sent notes to the court indicating it was unable to reach a unanimous verdict on the rape allegation.

The chief justice encouraged them to persevere each time.

Ms Higgins alleges Lehrmann raped her in the parliamentary office of Linda Reynolds when they worked for her as defence industry minister in March 2019.

He denies any sexual interaction.

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