Jury warned not to be influenced by public opinion in high-profile trial of accused Brittany Higgins rapist – as eight women and four men decide his fate
- A jury of eight women and four men will decide whether Lehrmann raped Mrs Higgins
- They were asked to retire just before 3 p.m. on Wednesday after a three-week trial
- Judge asked them to ignore popular opinion and make their own decision
- Brittany Higgins alleges Bruce Lehrmann sexually assaulted her in March 2019
- He has pleaded not guilty to one charge of sexual intercourse without consent
Jurors have been told they are “not responsible” for popular opinion as they enter their first full day of deliberation in the high-profile trial of the former Liberal Party staffer accused of raping Brittany Higgins.
A jury of eight women and four men will decide whether Bruce Lehrmann, who is accused of sexual intercourse without consent, raped his then colleague in Parliament House in Canberra after a drunken night out in March 2019.
Lehrmann pleaded innocent and denied any sexual interaction with Ms. Higgins. He endured a nearly three-week trial in the ACT Supreme Court.
Chief Justice Lucy McCallum gave the jurors detailed instructions on how to deliberate before asking them to retire, just before 3 p.m. on Wednesday.
Bruce Lehrmann, who has pleaded not guilty to one count of unauthorized sexual intercourse, was pictured before the ACT Supreme Court on Wednesday after the jury was asked to retire
Brittany Higgins (pictured) claims that Lehrmann raped her in the parliament building in March 2019
She reminded the jurors that Lehrmann was presumed innocent unless or until his guilt was proven beyond reasonable doubt by the prosecution.
They were ordered to act impartially, without emotion or prejudice, and to make a truthful statement according to the evidence presented in court.
“You are not responsible for popular opinion… however you think it swings,” Judge McCallum said.
“Your verdict, whether guilty or innocent, must be unanimous.”
Judge McCallum also addressed parts of attorney Steven Whybrow’s closing arguments, including when he spoke about Ms Higgins’ memory of the events.
On Wednesday morning, Mr Whybrow told the jury that Ms Higgins “don’t know what happened” and reconstructed the events in her head based on what others told her.
He quoted Ms Higgins’ comments to police as she watched CCTV footage of her and Lehrmann entering the parliament building at 1:41 am: “My memory is getting a little fuzzy.”
Judge McCallum urged the jury to also look at the portions of Ms. Higgins’ evidence in which she recalled events that did not need to be substantiated by anyone else.
In particular, the moment she remembered sitting alone on a windowsill in Parliament, looking out over the Prime Minister’s courtyard before the alleged rape took place.
“That was something she described as a memory of herself, which was not reconstructed,” she said.
Judge McCallum eventually told jurors to consider three elements: whether the accused had intercourse with the complainant, whether intercourse took place without the complainant’s consent, and whether the accused was reckless as to whether Ms. Higgins consented to sexual intercourse.
Bruce Lehrmann (center) is photographed out of court with members of his legal team
Recklessness, she said, was about Lehrmann’s state of mind and whether he had considered that the complainant might not agree.
“Consent to a sexual act means an informed consent to the sexual act freely and voluntarily given and communicated to the other person,” she told the court.
“A person does not consent if they are unconscious or asleep. They are unable to give consent if they are incapacitated or drunk.’
Judge McCallum said, “If you accept that the intercourse took place, you should accept that she didn’t consent.”
She summarized the prosecution and defense cases and said it was up to the jury to decide what evidence they would and would not accept.
But she warned jurors against making stereotypical judgments about a person’s behavior in a situation they haven’t experienced themselves, saying there was “no template” for life.
Brittany Higgins (pictured out of court) gave her testimony last Friday
“Be careful of speculation and prejudice… be careful not to make assumptions about how a person might behave in circumstances you haven’t experienced,” she said.
Lehrmann exercised his right to remain silent and did not appear on the witness stand during the trial. The jury played his interview with the police instead.
Judge McCallum said his decision not to testify in court cannot be used as an admission of guilt and does not strengthen the prosecution’s case.
She also said Lehrmann’s agreement to conduct a police interrogation does not shift the burden of proof on him.