ACT News

Eastman prosecutor said his team knew to give defence all relevant information

The man who led the prosecution of David Eastman says his team quickly came to an understanding that all relevant material should be disclosed to the defence before the 1995 trial for the murder of Assistant Federal Police Commissioner Colin Stanley Winchester.

Mr Eastman, who was freed in 2014 after 19 years behind bars for the crime, is currently trying to prevent a retrial from going ahead in the ACT Supreme Court.

David Eastman is arrested in December 1992 in relation to the murder of Colin Winchester.
David Eastman is arrested in December 1992 in relation to the murder of Colin Winchester.  Photo: Graham Tidy

He has launched a stay application, arguing prejudicial media coverage, extensive delay, exorbitant cost, and weakness of the Crown case mean the second trial would not be fair and should not occur. 

Currently, his lawyers are questioning former prosecutors involved in the 1995 trial, in an attempt to prove they were engaged in misconduct.

Such a finding, if made, could help them prevent a retrial. 

Mr Eastman's legal team, led by Mark Griffin, QC, alleges that prosecutors deliberately attempted to withhold information before the 1995 trial that could show weaknesses in the forensic evidence that linked the accused to the murder scene. 


That forensic evidence, in particular the analysis of gunshot residue found at the scene and in Mr Eastman's  boot, was found to flawed and unreliable during an inquiry in 2014, and the scientist responsible, Robert Barnes, shown to seriously lack objectivity, reliability, and credibility.

Michael Adams, now a NSW Supreme Court judge, led the prosecution of Mr Eastman in 1995. He began giving evidence in the stay application on Tuesday afternoon. 

Mr Adams agreed that he was personally in charge of deciding what was to be disclosed to the defence. But he said it was decided early on that anything that could assist Mr Eastman's defence must be handed over, unless subject to legal privilege. 

"It was just generally understood by the team that all reports ... had to be served," he said.

One thing Mr Eastman's defence never learned at trial was that Mr Barnes, the forensic expert, relied on the work of a masters student to build a database that was crucial to his analysis of gunshot propellant types. 

The database was compiled for the student's thesis.

Mr Adams said on Tuesday he had never been made aware of that. 

He said if he had found out, he would have asked questions to ensure it was done with proper scientific rigour. Mr Adams also would have quizzed Mr Barnes about why he had withheld that information from the prosecution. 

"Certainly I would have liked to have known the extent of Barnes' supervision of the work," he said.

Mr Adams and his team were cleared of any deliberate misconduct by Acting Justice Brian Martin in his 2014 inquiry into Mr Eastman's conviction.

Acting Justice Martin found the prosecution had adhered to the highest ethical and professional standards, and that any failures to disclose were inadvertent, rather than deliberate. 

The Crown is arguing it would take a lot to now move away from the Martin inquiry's finding in the present stay application.

The stay application will continue on Wednesday before Acting Justice David Ashley.