The David Eastman case will give generations of academics and law students something to pore over in years to come.
From the finer points of evidence law and hearsay, to the age-old conundrum of jury trials and outdated investigation techniques, the Eastman case has plenty to keep legal eagles interested, according to one Australian National University academic.
Anthony Hopkins, a senior lecturer at the ANU College of Law, said the Eastman trial - the 20-year legal saga which culminated in a verdict of not guilty on Thursday - was a unique and remarkable case.
“I think it raises deep questions about the extent to which we can fact-find so long after an event, but in other contexts, like say child abuse, it's often the case that we need to factually interrogate evidence that's decades old,” he said.
“[The Eastman case] is almost singularly unusual, not so much that there could be a miscarriage of justice and someone could spend a long time in prison and then be released, but that this was followed by a retrial.”
He said the fact that the jury had taken so long to arrive at a verdict - 31 hours over seven days - was reassuring, in a way, for the legal system.
“There can be no doubt that they've applied their minds to this, and that the system allows and encourages a degree of pressure to be put on to keep thinking, keep trying,” he said.
“In some ways, it supports the faith we have in the legal system and the process of trial by jury, that they have clearly given such thought and consideration to the evidence in working towards a verdict.
“I think it would have been perhaps more challenging if they'd come back immediately.
The rest of us stand on the outside and we don't really know the full extent of the evidence that they've seen and considered.
You could pick over this forever, even just thinking about the process of trying to appeal your conviction.”
University of Sydney Law School professor David Hamer, who has written in the past about the Eastman case in the context of the effectiveness of criminal procedure, said it would serve as a useful reminder of the infallibility of the legal system.
“It is a pretty graphic illustration that the system isn't perfect,” he said.
“That's no great surprise, because if you think about what the system is trying to do, it's trying to conduct a historical inquiry where inevitably you've got limited evidence, and the prosecution has to, with this limited evidence, prove its case to a very high standard.
“We can't demand absolute certainty because that would be impossible to achieve. Proof beyond reasonable doubt doesn't demand absolute certainty, and that means that there are going to be errors.”