Gordon Wood’s landmark lawsuit against the state of New South Wales continues to highlight the need to source independent expert witnesses who are properly briefed on their obligations to the court.
Mr Wood, whose conviction for the murder of his girlfriend Caroline Byrne was overturned by the Court of Criminal Appeal in 2012, recently claimed that investigating police had “poisoned the mind” of their witness, Associate Professor Rod Cross.
Associate Professor Cross gave evidence at the 1995 trial that Ms Byrne could not have committed suicide at The Gap, because she could not have physically propelled her body the distance from the cliff in which it was eventually found.
However, Mr Wood now alleges that Associate Professor Cross was a partial expert witness who liaised excessively with police during the extensive pre-trial investigation. Mr Wood’s barrister Bruce McClintock, SC, claimed before the court that “Professor Cross himself [became] a prosecutor and he was malicious’, for which the state is liable.
Alternatively, Mr McClintock alleges that the police maliciously misled Professor Wood, drawing particular attention to several false accusations made by Detective Inspector Paul Jacob to Associate Professor Cross, including that Mr Wood has requested to see Ms Byrne’s breasts at the morgue.
“It’s obvious that the police – whether intentionally or not – poisoned Professor’s Cross’ mind by putting these things into it”, Mr McClintock said.
The police have denied any malicious intent.
The hearing continues.