After the meeting, Hope said he wasn’t convinced Scott Watson was innocent, describing some of his answers as “elusive” or “rehearsed.”
He also described Watson as “mute,” “unemotional” and “disconnected” during parts of the conversation.
Following that meeting, Gerald Hope said that since 1998 there has been so much said and speculated about the case that he no longer wants to do any more interviews.
Another legal bid
Scott Watson will again fight for his freedom by trying to overturn his convictions in an appeal set for June.
The process for this started after a report was made by former High Court Judge Sir Graham Panckhurst who reviewed Watson’s second application for a Royal Prerogative of Mercy.
Sir Graham Panckhurst’s report raised questions about the reliability of the forensic evidence given at trial in regards to the strands of hair found on Watson’s yacht Blade.
In 2020, then Justice Minister Andrew Little announced that after considering Sir Graham Panckhurst’s advice and the Ministry’s report, he had advised then Governor-General Dame Patsy Reddy to refer Scott Watson’s murder convictions back to the Court of Appeal.
The defence claims there were major errors in the way the hair evidence was dealt with as well as the identification of Scott Watson.
Official court documents state that “…evidence has become available since the applicant’s trial and appeal against conviction that may raise doubts about the reliability of an important aspect of the prosecution case, namely the forensic evidence ….”
The defence will raise questions highlighting quality standards related to the collection, handling and forensic examination of the hairs as well as the reliability of the results obtained from their DNA testing.
One of the defence experts is questioning the procedures that were in place for examining the hair back in 1998 and if there may have been an increased risk of contamination.
The Court of Appeal ruled that Scott Watson and his lawyers can also challenge the reliability of the late Guy Wallace’s identification of Watson as the mystery man.
AUT Law School Professor Kris Gledhill says the Court of Appeal will determine whether a conviction amounts to a miscarriage of justice.
“That will usually involve the question of whether the guilty verdict is a correct one. There can also be questions of whether a trial was unfair, in which case there is no need to consider the verdict because you cannot rely on a verdict from an unfair process,” says Professor Gledhill.
He says that a guilty verdict requires that the evidence shows guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.
“Often guilt arises not just from one “blockbuster” piece of evidence, but a collection of facts and circumstances that together point to guilt. Here you can imagine a set of scales where all the evidence together adds weight that tilts the scales firmly in favour of the prosecution. But if the weight of one or more of those pieces of evidence evaporates, that may leave the scales not fully in favour of the prosecution. If the scale now leaves a reasonable doubt, the verdict is no longer correct,” Professor Gledhill told Newshub.
He says new evidence is central to this appeal.
“The prosecution position will be in one of three broad categories: one is where they accept that there has been a miscarriage of justice; the second is where they accept that there is a proper reason for the Court of Appeal to look again but they present counter-arguments to make sure that there is a proper exploration; and the third is where they argue more strongly that there has been no miscarriage of justice because the evidence still adds up to guilt beyond a reasonable doubt,” he says.
University of Auckland Law Professor Mark Henaghan says it can take years to put an appeal together.
“It’s painstaking, meticulous work. It’s a massive enterprise. Lawyers go the extra mile and do hundreds of voluntary hours,” he told Newshub.
“If the appeal is successful, the convictions would be quashed and a re-trial could possibly be ordered if there’s sufficient evidence for one,” said Professor Henaghan.
Chris Watson – who is now almost 77 years old, wants to be reunited with his son in the real world before it’s too late.
“We’d sit and have a yarn. I’m sure he’d like to go fishing. His brother has a room waiting for him. We’ve had jobs arranged for him in the past,” he says.
His brother Tom adds that while he’s seen Scott occasionally feel “down” in jail, most of the time he can “get his head back up.”
“He wants to start living again and get back to his interests of fishing, sailing and motorbike riding,” Tom Watson says.
“He’s been out of circulation for a long time. He would find the world a completely different place. I don’t think people really even had cell phones back then.”
“This has been our life for the last 26 years. We’ve all served a sentence too. It’s just waiting and waiting. He (Scott) has got used to that as we all have. Nothing happens quickly. My wife would have liked to see the end of all of this. You keep trying as that’s all you can do,” says Watson Snr.
Scott Watson’s appeal is set down for five days starting on June 10 in Wellington.
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