Jurors in the rape trial of Brittany Higgins against Bruce Lehrmann have not yet reached a verdict after their first full day of deliberation.
Chief Justice Lucy McCallum said Thursday afternoon in the Supreme Court of the Law, “Well, members of the jury, I haven’t heard from you today and it’s 4 o’clock and I take it you want to go home?”
A few judges nodded enthusiastically. They will return to court at 10 a.m. Friday to decide whether Lehrmann sexually assaulted Ms Higgins in the parliament building in March 2019.
He pleaded not guilty to one charge of unauthorized sexual intercourse, and denied any sexual interaction with Ms. Higgins.
On Wednesday afternoon, Judge McCallum gave jurors detailed instructions on how to deliberate and told them not to answer: popular opinion.
Lehrmann will soon learn his fate. He has pleaded not guilty to a single count of sexual intercourse without consent
Brittany Higgins alleges Lehrmann raped her in 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.
Former Liberal Party staffer Bruce Lehrmann (right) showed little emotion as he left the ACT Supreme Court after the first day of his trial
Brittany Higgins stands out of court on October 7 (in white) during the trial of her former colleague
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.