By Bill Mason
BRISBANE — The plot has thickened in the continuing Joh Bjelke-Petersen trial saga with revelations in state parliament on November 13 that a former associate of the infamous Queensland police corrupt "rat pack" had snooped on potential jurors to check on their political backgrounds on behalf of the defence.
Labor member for Archerfield Henry Palasczuk said Barrie O'Brien, who was adversely named at the Fitzgerald Inquiry, had been chosen to investigate jury lists to enable National and Liberal cronies of former premier Sir Joh Bjelke-Petersen to see if they could recognise names.
This follows media accusations by members of the hung Joh trial jury that their foreman, National Party member Luke Shaw, had been obstructive, had overridden their opinions and had misrepresented their views to the trial judge.
It has also been revealed that the jury was deadlocked 10-2 for a guilty verdict when the trial was aborted.
Jurors who spoke to a Brisbane journalist are reported to be outraged at the result of the trial, and frustrated at the role of the foreman.
A review of Queensland's jury system will now examine changes in the law to prohibit private investigation of potential jurors, as part of a general inquiry into problems with the present system.
Controversy has continued over how much potential jurors should be obliged to reveal about their views and background to trial lawyers for both sides.
The problem of privacy and jurors' own rights has been emphasised by civil libertarians.
Debate has also taken place over the issue of jurors revealing publicly deliberations occurring within the jury room.
Whatever the issues around the specific operations of the jury system, only the rich and powerful have the opportunity to manipulate the system to their own advantage.
The farcical events surrounding the Joh trial, which leave him free to use his ill-gotten gains to further enrich himself, while Aborigines continue to die in prison on a regular basis, are an indictment of the Australian "justice system".