A criminal psychiatrist believes David Harold Eastman was at times not fit for trial, agreeing that police harassment could have hurt the convicted murderer’s capacity to deal with the court case.
Eastman, now 68, was convicted in 1995 of the 1989 killing of ACT police chief Colin Stanley Winchester.
Mr Winchester was shot as he sat in his car in his neighbour’s driveway, in one of the most notorious crimes in the ACT’s history.
But Eastman has always maintained his innocence, and has fought to clear his name for decades.
An inquiry into the conviction was ordered by the ACT Supreme Court in late 2012 after ‘‘fresh doubt’’ was raised.
The inquiry, presided over by acting Justice Brian Martin, has been hearing evidence for months, but is still only in early stages. It resumed hearing evidence on Monday, following a summer break.
The inquiry is pushing ahead in the shadow of an ongoing challenge to its legality by the Director of Public Prosecutions.
That challenge, if successful, could derail the inquiry.
The first witness to give evidence on Monday, Dr Bruce Westmore, a criminal psychiatrist, twice interviewed Eastman in the late 1990s.
A key issue being considered by the inquiry is whether questions of Eastman’s fitness to stand trial were properly dealt with by the court, including whether the trial should have been adjourned when sufficient material was raised to question the convicted murderer’s fitness as he represented himself at trial on June29, 1995.
The law required trials to be adjourned to the ACT Mental Health Tribunal when such questions were raised.
Dr Westmore said that a longitudinal study of Eastman, including observations of his 18 years in custody, excluded a diagnosis of psychosis.
He said Eastman suffered from an extreme paranoid personality disorder, sometimes so intense that he lost control of his actions under a ‘‘great tsunami of affect and belief’’.
But he said the episodes passed and, in his opinion, were not so extreme that they constituted psychosis.
Under cross-examination by Eastman’s lawyer, Mark Griffin, QC, Dr Westmore was quizzed about whether he thought the convicted murderer had been fit to stand trial. Dr Westmore said it was his opinion that at certain times and for certain aspects of the proceedings, Eastman had not been fit.
The psychiatrist agreed that police harassment of Eastman would have lessened his capacity to deal with the trial process.
He agreed it had given rise to questions of fitness, which could only have been resolved by a hearing. He agreed with Mr Griffin that it would be ‘‘very difficult’’ to resolve that question of fitness, or ‘‘unscramble that egg’’, years down the track.
Dr Westmore said Eastman had become distracted when representing himself by issues like his treatment at the hands of police and his interactions with the judge.
That meant he focused on those problems to the detriment of his own self-representation.
‘‘He became micro-focused on an issue, rather than being able to look at the bigger picture,’’ Dr Westmore said.
A second psychiatrist, Allan White, who also completed reports on Eastman, also gave evidence to the inquiry on Monday.
Dr White had earlier diagnosed Eastman with chronic paranoid schizophrenia, and also said he thought the convicted murderer was not fit to plead.
The inquiry continues on Tuesday.