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Sunday and the Rogers case

By Steven | November 19, 2007

Okay, I’ve seen the programme now.

Interestingly, TVNZ has also posted the whole interview with Noel Rogers. Good on them for that, I think.

As I’ve said all along, I think there was public interest in the videoed interview, for at least three reasons:

1. It allows us to better judge whether the Court of Appeal got it right in excluding the evidence (given that part of their reasoning was that  Rogers was effectively taken advantage of);

2. It allows us to better judge the consequences of the Court of Appeal decision, in terms of how cogent we think the excluded evidence was;

3. It allows us to better form a view on the big question of who we think did it, and in the process, how it was that after two confessions we have no-one in jail.

So I was pleased with the Supreme Court decision (which I confess I still haven’t finished reading; more later).

Still, as I feared, I found the Sunday programme terribly unfair on Rogers (and the jury). Although there were some “we’ll-never-know” type statements, the thrust of it was that Rogers was guilty and the jury would probably have found him so if they’d just seen the confession.’

That’s not to say I think Rogers is innocent. What I think is that there was ample evidence before the jury for them to find him not guilty.

Some of that evidence was mentioned in the programme. In a wee rush at the end it noted that Noel had alibi evidence, that police witnesses doubted his confession, that there was expert evidence that the killing was a dream, and the Crown never proved the clothes Rogers had led them to at the crime scene belonged to the victim. It was a bit like the fine print they hide at the bottom of an ad for a new medicine. (“May cause headaches, vomiting, and occasionally death”).

What TVNZ didn’t tell you (if I’m correctly reconstructing my notes from a conversation I had with Rogers’ defence counsel last year):

1. There were many other confessions that the jury did get to hear about.

2. Rogers’ confessions were inconsistent with each other.

3. He told the police that the material they’d find hidden in the long-drop was sheets and teatowels he’d used to mop up the blood. What was discovered were strips of rag. There was no blood on them. There was no DNA on them.

4. The evidence from the cognitive scientist was unopposed, and suggested that Rogers was easily led.

5. There were aspects of the excluded confession video that the defence counsel could have argued were inconsistent with the crime scene evidence about how the offence took place. I would have been interested to see something about that.

Remember that Borrie Lloyd’s story (“I cant remember what happened; I woke up and there was her body, so I buried it; I later confessed but I was bullied into it”) is hardly very convincing. (Lloyd’s account was included in the programme).

I would have thought all of that would be necessary to a fair and balanced analysis of the case.

I would also have thought that there might have been room or some discussion of the propriety of the Court of Appeal decision. Several people I know (including an evidence lecturer) would have been happy to explain succinctly why they thought the Court of Appeal got it wrong when it ruled the video inadmissible. Given that TVNZ was arguing in court that this was an important aspect of the public interest, you might have expected them to deal with it in the item. (They did explain, quite well, the reasoning behind the CA decision, but didn’t have anyone commenting on it.)

I can’t say I feel much better informed about the Rogers case having seen Sunday’s treatment of it.

Topics: Broadcasting Standards Authority, Media ethics | No Comments »

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