Mulrunji inquest to re-open

June 27, 2009

The inquest into the death in custody of Palm Island man Mulrunji Doomadgee in November, 2004 will be reopened. In 2006, deputy state coroner Christine Clements found senior sergeant Chris Hurley was responsible for Doomadgee's death.

Due to a strong campaign for justice, Hurley was finally charged with manslaughter and assault in 2007, but was acquitted by an all-white jury.

The judge ruled that Hurley's history of violence against Aboriginal people could not be submitted as part of the prosecution case.

Clements's coronial findings were set aside by the Townsville District Court on December 18, 2008. A subsequent appeal on behalf of the Doomadgee family against that decision was lost on June 16.

The Appeal Court ruled that "the decision of the District Court that this finding by the coroner should be set aside was correct even though the process of reasoning whereby the judge arrived at that decision was flawed", said a June 16 article posted at Bigpond News.

The Queensland Police Union strongly opposed both the coroner's original findings, and the charging of Hurley, and have welcomed the decision to re-open the inquest. As long as the original Coronial ruling stood, there would always be a public question mark over Hurley's innocence.

However, as Socialist Alliance Indigenous spokesperson Sam Watson told Green Left Weekly, the Appeals Court's decision may turn out to be in the family's interest.

Watson said that this ongoing legal process was denying the family a sense of closure. But if material evidence that was previously excluded from Clements's inquest was included this time around "it will work very much in favour of the family".

Watson said he expects the lawyers and the family will argue very strongly that the previously excluded secret evidence about Hurley's background would be allowed.

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