This excerpt from Justice Denied by Dr David Klatzow is published with permission from Zebra Press, an imprint of Random House Struik.

About the book:
In Justice Denied, Dr David Klatzow exposes the miscarriages of justice resulting from the faulty courtroom testimony of corrupt or incompetent forensic pathologists and unscrupulous public prosecutors who seek convictions at all costs.

To read a full synopsis of the book, visit Random House Struik.

Excerpt taken from Page 100, beginning from paragraph two.

Beyond reasonable doubt

On 22 May 1987, Mr Justice T.R. Morling returned his letters patent to the Governor-General and Commander-in-Chief in Canberra.

Morling had chaired a royal commission to look into the criminal conviction of Alice Lynne ‘Lindy’ Chamberlain, who had been convicted of the murder of her nine-week-old daughter, Azaria, at Ayers Rock (now Uluru) on 17 August 1980.

When the child disappeared during a family camping trip, Lindy and Michael Chamberlain fell under the suspicion of the Australian police. At the first coroner’s inquest on 20 February 1981, Magistrate Denis Barritt returned a finding that the baby had been snatched by a dingo.

The Northern Territory Police were not at all happy with this finding, and their investigation proceeded with added zeal. On 18 November 1981, an order was made in the Supreme Court that quashed the findings of the Barritt inquest and directed that another inquest be held.

This was duly complied with and, in February 1982, the coroner in the second inquest, Mr G. Galvin, returned a verdict that saw Lindy charged with murder and her husband, Michael, charged with being an accessory to murder.

After a lengthy trial, both Chamberlains were found guilty.

Lindy was sent to prison while Michael effectively received a suspended sentence. All appeals against these findings were turned down, and that is where the judicial process rested for four years. In 1986, a chance finding of a piece of Azaria’s clothing at Ayers Rock verified Lindy’s testimony and resulted in her immediate release from prison.

On 15 September 1988, the Court of Criminal Appeal overturned all convictions against Michael and Lindy Chamberlain.

There is no doubt that this case received inflamed media attention and, to some degree, public opinion was set against the Chamberlains from the start, not least by Michael’s position as a pastor in the church of the Seventh-day Adventists.

The finding of Azaria’s missing clothing was one of those pure chance happenings.

In 1986, an English tourist by the name of David Brett fell to his death at Ayers Rock. It was some eight days before his body was recovered. It just so happened that the body had fallen into an area that was difficult to reach and was teeming with dingo lairs.

Because some predation had taken place on Brett’s body, the police went searching for missing bones. It was during this search that they found a small item of clothing, which was quickly recognised as Azaria’s missing matinee jacket.

Things had obviously gone wrong in the trial.

Apart from the usual lurid stories dreamt up by the press and the introduction of a strange bias relating to the Seventh-day Adventist Church, the most significant piece of evidence against the Chamberlains was the ‘blood spatter’ under the dashboard of the Holden Torana motor car owned and driven by the couple.

Much of the prosecution case against Lindy rested on the ‘presence of blood’ on the dashboard on the passenger side of the car. Quite specific claims were made about this so-called blood spatter.

Firstly, it was alleged that the substance was blood. Secondly, the ‘blood’ was said to contain foetal haemoglobin.

Haemoglobin is the red pigment in blood. It resides in the red cells and is the principle molecule that the body uses for conveying oxygen from the lungs to different parts of the body.

The oxygen physiology of the baby before it is born is different from its physiology after birth, when the infant starts to breathe independently.

In utero, the foetus’s special oxygen-carrying needs are accomplished by foetal haemoglobin, which is chemically quite distinct from adult haemoglobin.

By about six months, the foetal haemoglobin has all been replaced with the adult form of the molecule. The substance found on the Chamberlains’ car was therefore alleged to belong to a baby not much older than six months.

The third damaging allegation about the spatter under the dashboard was that it was arterial blood.

In all animals with a circulatory system, the blood is effectively divided into two systems separated by capillaries.

The blood pumped out of the heart is under high pressure. By contrast, the blood in the venous system, which returns blood to the heart, flows at a much lower pressure.

A cut into a vein therefore produces a non-pulsatile, low-pressure flow of blood, while a cut into an artery produces a high-pressure spray.

When a high-pressure arterial spray hits any surface, the pattern can usually be distinguished from the low-pressure dripping of blood from a vein.

On the basis of this evidence, Lindy was accused of cutting Azaria’s throat with a pair of scissors.

The severing of a carotid artery (the main artery, one of a pair supplying blood to the brain) was said to have produced the arterial high-pressure pattern found in the car.

These are seriously damaging allegations and were backed up by ‘scientific proof ’. The Chamberlains had limited access to resources and scientific expertise to refute this evidence at the time.

The state experts who performed the tests were Joy Kuhl, a forensic biologist in the employ of the government, and Dr Simon Baxter, who was at the time a senior forensic biologist with the Health Commission of New South Wales and Kuhl’s supervisor.

The tests performed by Kuhl and Baxter involved reacting the material found in the car – ‘presumptive blood’ – with a commercial antibody.

It would be helpful to understand how this test works in practice. Antibodies are protein molecules produced by the immune system of an animal, usually in response to an infection.

When the animal’s immune system encounters something ‘foreign’, such as a bacterium or a virus, it has a particular response to that substance. One of the components of the response is to produce specific antibodies that can recognise the foreign substance and bind with it.

The body’s reaction is utilised to produce special antibodies that can be used in the laboratory to identify other proteins.

Foetal haemoglobin is injected into rabbits kept specifically for this purpose. The rabbits, on being confronted with injections of foetal haemoglobin, proceed to make antibodies against it.

It is these antibodies that are harvested and used in identifying foetal haemoglobin in forensic and clinical settings. In both settings it is very important to be absolutely sure of the specificity of the antibody.

If the antibody is non-specific (in other words, if it gives a positive reaction with foetal haemoglobin as well as a number of other specific positive reactions), any tests done with it would be invalidated.

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