Friday, August 10, 2007

Sciences of Palmistry Are Garbage?

Have you heard yet about the tragic (and ongoing) story of palm reader and author Andrew Fitzherbert, who was convicted of murder based solely on questionable DNA evidence? The prosecutor even mentioned "the garbage bin of the sciences of palmistry".

Online Opinion: In August 1999, palm reader Andrew Fitzherbert was sentenced to life imprisonment for the murder of Brisbane veterinarian Kathleen Marshall, 52.

Fitzherbert, then aged 49, had no criminal record and those who knew him described him as a pacifist. An acclaimed palm reader, with three books on palmistry published, he did readings from his home.

The hearing began in July 1999 in the Brisbane Supreme Court. The cornerstone of the defence was DNA evidence given by Ken Cox, a forensic biologist from a laboratory with a history of errors.

Fitzherbert had a rock solid alibi. If the evidence of the alibi witnesses was to be accepted, there was simply no opportunity for the accused to commit the murder, and what was conspicuously absent was a motive.

Prosecutor Paul Rutledge described the DNA evidence as going “cleanly, directly to the heart of the matter”, and said Fitzherbert was a liar, reminding the jury they’d been given the “expert evidence” of a scientist compared to the “garbage bin of the sciences of palmistry”.

However, Bond University’s Chair of Criminology Professor Paul Wilson points out that DNA evidence is not infallible, as most people think. “Forensic Science is part art, part science. It’s very, very dangerous to convict purely on forensic science evidence and even with DNA evidence there can be problems. How DNA is collected, transported, stored, analysed, interpreted can lead to errors and miscarriages of justice.”

Fitzherbert’s lawyer, Laura-Leigh Cameron-Dow says. “Ken Cox included test results in his analysis that shouldn’t have been recognised in court as reliable. The defence didn’t query Cox as to whether the results received from samples were strong enough to be recorded as positives under scientific guidelines established for use of DNA evidence in the courtroom.”

Fitzherbert appealed his conviction in March 2000 and acted for himself. He was unsuccessful.

Fitzherbert had the right to retest the blood samples at the government’s expense at the time of his trial and at his appeal, but was not made aware of that right. Since 2003, Cameron-Dow has made several requests to the Queensland Attorney-General to release crime scene samples for testing.

Attorney-General Kerry Shine said he wouldn’t allow further testing as all items had been tested, and there was nothing wrong with the DNA testing method. Cameron-Dow claims not all items were tested and Cox admitted this.

Read the full article by Mary Garden

Sounds to me like it was more of a persecution than a prosecution. So why wasn't more done then, and what can be done now?

1 comment:

John said...

I'm sorry, what you have written here is factually not accurate.

Andrew Fitzherbert's DNA blood traces were found at the scene mixed with the victims.

He was also seen by 2 witnesses at the premises, on the alleged day of the murder, despite claiming 'he had never met the victim, nor attended the house'.

Phone records between Fitzherbert and the vicitm, were also presented in court, to support the prosecution's circumstancial case.

Andrew Fitzherbert mightn't have been the only killer there, that day, and he mightn't have delivered all 52 stab wounds, but it's been proven, beyond a shaddow of doubt, through DNA matching, that he was present at the time of Dr Kathleen Marshall's murder.

Maybe its time, he fesses up to his involvement, plus named names, of any others involved? That may help his case for early release.