I will never forget the screams of my son, when they decided he was guilty. The cries of my daughter in law, the look on my husband’s face, I was in complete shock. If all the evidence was allowed to be heard, we would never be in this predicament. Leaving court that day without my son is a pain that rattled me to my core and will haunt me for the rest of my life.
Delving back to memories of the trial is a place that I never wanted to relive again. However, it is a story that I feel I need to tell and that others need to hear to protect their sons, fathers, uncles and partners who may face a similar battle. No one should have to endure the pain and the suffering my family has had to go through.
It was like a funeral taking place, my son had just died and we were burying him. All I could think of was that they have got this so so wrong. With all the evidence we had, there was not even a chance my son should have been taken away from us in this way. As the verdict was read, I remember saying out loud “don’t worry, the truth will come out.” This was the one and only thing the newspapers printed from our side of the story.
What many of the New Zealand public do not know is that not all the evidence that occured on the night of an alleged charge is seen or heard. I had always believed that ALL of the evidence is presented before a jury before they come to an informed decision. I was completely wrong….so how can it be a fair trial by jury when big chunks of evidence are withheld?
On our trips to and from court during the trial, Jamie and I would talk about how we couldn’t believe which evidence was deemed inadmissible. It was crucial information that told the full story and would completely quash the Crown’s argument. Jamie would tell me ‘don’t worry, the other officers were there and will tell the truth’… Only one made an attempt, but his side of the story was barely heard. Most of the relevant conversations that night including the one between him and Jamie were deemed inadmissible.
Over the weeks of the trial, it was difficult to hear Fiona Culliney; the Crown Lawyer, using inflammatory and inappropriate language which is usually disallowed in a courtroom. Pointing at my son while looking at the jurors and creating a narrative that he “helped himself” and that he was “creeping across the court yard with a sense of entitlement” in an attempt to falsely characterise him as someone he was not. The Crown was confident to use such language as they knew evidence to disprove their argument was inadmissible. They also knew that a large portion of this evidence was and still is suppressed to the public. This makes it more difficult for us to portray the full story.
I remember a day in court where two forensic specialists were brought in for questioning. Comprehensive DNA testing and swabs were gathered by each of these experts. When questioned in court, one of the forensic specialists said they had never done a case with this number of tests before. The results showed that no evidence of Jamie’s DNA was found. Knowing this proved the truth, I wasn’t the only one dismayed to hear the Crown debating minor details which was irrelevant to prove an alleged rape in which even the Judge intervened with questioning. The simple fact that DNA was NOT found should have been the underscoring takeaway, however with all the back and forth, I believe it left everyone bemused.
After each day, the media would jump on board using the inflammatory words of the Crown Lawyer in their articles but nothing about the fact that none of Jamie’s DNA was found. This was not a suppressed subject. It didn’t offer the public the full story and it unfairly painted a picture of guilt before a trial was even complete or a jury had made any decisions.
I suppose it comes down to who could sell the best story right?
I lost count of how many times I was asked to leave the courtroom (hours on end) while the Crown lawyer argued for certain evidence not to be shown to the jury. It baffled me that crucial evidence occurring that night, supporting Jamie’s argument, could be deemed inadmissible simply because of reasons I can’t share due to them being suppressed. I need to reiterate that the evidence that was deemed inadmissible happened on the actual night of the alleged charge. As the trial progressed, we heard of more and more evidence that was not allowed to be advanced to the jury. Our hands were tied behind our back. If Jamie was to take the stand, he was not allowed to give evidence on pivotal conversations he had had over the course of the night or show relevant parts of CCTV footage to outline his points.
We all know the saying ‘innocent until proven guilty’. This was definitely not the case. Before we even got to speak and share our evidence (what little was allowed) we were on the back foot, fighting for Jamie’s innocence. My son worked for the New Zealand Police for 8 years. He served his community and was a great cop.
At one stage of the trial, one of the senior detectives came out of the courtroom where I was sitting in the foyer. This was when the complainant was in Court and no one else was allowed in the public gallery. The detective was working with Fiona the Crown Prosecutor when he walked out. He looked at me, he knew I was Jamie’s mother. He said “I’m over this”. This is something that I will always remember because it indicated to me that he knew, as well as I did, that something was not right.
As the verdict was being read, I couldn’t believe it. My son that I had brought up to be a good man, the kind guy who would help anyone no matter what, was being told he was ‘guilty’ for crimes he did not commit. This felt like a horrific nightmare, I was in utter shock. Jamie was yelling out and looking at me saying ‘Mum?!’ while his wife was sobbing, repeating ‘he didn’t do this!’ Jamie’s father had to walk out of the courtroom.
As hard as it was, I replied to Jamie ‘You turn around and you look at him’ – meaning for him to look at Judge Thomas. ‘You look at him’ and hold your head up high, hold your mana. I have always been taught to hold yourself in a way to respect all people, even if they have done you wrong. I have taught my children to never forget who they truly are, it is the one thing that nobody can take away from you. As I put my arm around my daughter in-law’s shoulders, I turned my head to look at the three detectives who were sitting directly behind us. They had their heads down looking at the floor.
As the Judge began thanking the Jurors for their time over the past few weeks, I remember how he spent the next 8 minutes talking over the crying. He thanked the jury for taking Jamie out of society. It was baffling to me as he had seen all the evidence that was inadmissable and would point them to Jamie’s innocence.
As I was leaving that Courtroom I felt lost. We still believed that Jamie would be coming home with us that day. Unbeknownst to us, the journey ahead from here was only going to get a lot harder.
The reason I decided to write this was simply because I do not want another mother or family to go through what we are going through. A system that has wronged us as a family, and as a nation. This is our story; I cannot stay silent any longer. If I can change one thing to make it better for someone else, then it’s worth the fight.
I feel it is imperative that I enforce that I in no way support anything to diminish the trauma of a genuine victim. I think rape is one of the worst things a human can do to another human. I despise those people. But that’s also why I need to tell Jamie’s story. To free him from a label he doesn’t deserve.
This was my experience of the trial. The journey didn’t stop there though.
There is more to this story, some of which I cannot speak on due to suppressions of evidence, and most of which the media never reported on – whether by choice or by command.
Our story needs the truth to be told – so we can then create change for a better future
Jackie is a hardworking mother and grandmother; she is also the Managing Director of her own business. From humble beginnings, Jackie endured hardships during her childhood, spending time in Women’s Refuge and working from a young age to help support her mother and siblings. She has been married for 26 years and resides on the Hibiscus Coast with her family.