ACT News

David Eastman case back before the court for first time since his release

David Eastman on his way to the ACT Supreme Court to face murder charges 20 years ago.
David Eastman on his way to the ACT Supreme Court to face murder charges 20 years ago. 

David Eastman's murder case will come back before the court on Monday for the first time since he was released after 19 years behind bars.

Eastman is facing the prospect of a retrial for the alleged 1989 assassination of ACT police chief Colin Stanley Winchester outside his Deakin home.

The Director of Public Prosecutions is deciding whether it can and should try Eastman again over Mr Winchester's murder. 

That decision was left to the DPP when the ACT Supreme Court decided earlier this month to quash Eastman's conviction but order a retrial.

The conviction was found to be unjust, mainly because of glaring flaws in the forensic evidence used against Eastman at his 1995 trial and incomplete disclosure of information to his defence.

Eastman was released on bail after that decision on August 22 and has been in the community on conditional liberty since.

His case will reappear in the ACT Supreme Court on Monday in a large callover list before the Chief Justice Helen Murrell. 

It is not expected that Eastman will make an appearance.  

The matter is likely to appear only briefly and will set a date for the case's next appearance.

The DPP has so far declined to comment about how it is approaching the decision of whether to push ahead with a second trial.

But it has previously argued that an overwhelming case remains against Eastman, even without the now discredited gunshot residue analysis of Robert Collins Barnes.

If prosecutors do decide to push ahead with a trial, Eastman's lawyers can make an application to stay proceedings. 

They have previously argued that a fair trial is now impossible, given that witnesses are dead, forensic exhibits have been destroyed and more than 25 years have passed since the crime.

Extensive media coverage could also make it difficult to find a jury free from prejudice. 

Acting Justice Brian Martin, head of the Eastman inquiry, described the prospect of a retrial as "not feasible and would not be fair" when he handed down his report in May.

But the full bench of the ACT Supreme Court disagreed in its judgment quashing Eastman's conviction last month.

"Weighing all the factors and considerations to which we have referred above, we have concluded that the interests of justice require that we order a retrial," the judges wrote.

"The gravity of the offence, the life sentence imposed and the strength of the remaining circumstantial case persuade us that, despite the time that has elapsed since the offence and the time that Mr Eastman has already spent in custody, this is an appropriate case to order a new trial."

The Eastman matter is listed for 9.30am.