ON 13 AUGUST 2014, the High Court of Australia delivered Fitzgerald v The Queen  HCA 28 (13 August 2014).
The High Court quashed convictions for murder and aggravated causing serious harm with the intent to cause serious harm contrary to ss11 and 23 of the Criminal Law Consolidation Act 1935 SA).
A group of men group forcibly entered a house in Elizabeth South, South Australia and attacked the occupants, causing one to die and the other to suffer serious brain injuries. The accused’s DNA was recovered from a didgeridoo found at the crime scene. There was no direct evidence of the accused’s presence.
The prosecution asserted that accused was a member of the group that forcibly entered the house with the common intention of inflicting grievous bodily harm to persons inside. It was asserted that the DNA was from the accused’s blood that came to be on the didgeridoo during the attack.
The defence argued that on the evidence there were alternative hypotheses consistent with the accused’s innocence, including that the accused’s DNA may have been transferred to the didgeridoo when he shook the hand of one of the group members the night before.
The High Court held that a jury acting reasonably should have entertained a reasonable doubt as to the accused’s guilt because the prosecution’s contention that the DNA was from the accused’s blood was not made out beyond a reasonable doubt and the recovery of the DNA did not give rise to any inference as to when and how the DNA came to be on the didgeridoo.
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