Scott Watson (SW) currently appeals his 2 murder convictions by way of the Royal Prerogative of Mercy (RPOM.) This is 2nd attempt, having failed at the Court of Appeal (COA) and Privy Council (PC). The main reason he must prevail is because of a single word - process.
The Watson case had never followed process. SW was tried by media, this was acknowledged by the Independent Police Complaints Authority (IPCA) who are statutorily restrained from having any real power. It can make recommendations and publish findings but mostly appear fairly 'toothless' but in the Watson case the IPCA acknowledge the not inconsiderable influence of the media in painting an unflattering picture of SW before his trial, even before his arrest - hence the reason many consider SW's trial was a 'trial by media.' The IPCA also upheld complaints about witness identifications and criticised police handling of witnesses which may have led to witnesses giving false evidence - about the strongest criticism the IPCA can make. So that was an abuse of process.
At the same time another abuse of process was going on, 'tunnel vision.' SW was the only suspect on the landscape and whilst police had evidence that the couple had boarded a ketch they soon stopped looking for a ketch despite getting 100s of reports of sightings and instead concentrated on SW single masted sloop. During the early stages of the inquiry there were reports of the missing couple Ben Smart and Olivia Hope being seen alive on a ketch a few 2 days after their appearance. Police maintained that the witnesses were mistaken, but despite one of the biggest manhunt's in NZ history, and to this day, the woman witnesses were said to be mistaken about has never been found and never come forward. Nor has the ketch she was seen upon ever found. So the police find no ketch even though witnesses see it, and never find the couple on board. We are asked to put that from our minds and to consider by implication that a ketch, its crew, and passengers never come forward to confirm that they were actually the people seen on the 2nd of January 1998 by 20 people. Again that is a disruption of process. Police were required to find that ketch and that couple, not just say 20 people were mistaken - innocent people going about innocent past times don't hide from police, they actually come forward.
Meanwhile investigation police in Endeavour Inlet are busy telling people they didn't see a 2 masted ketch, the actually saw a single masted sloop around half the ketch's size. If some witnesses are not convinced police tell them that SW is a dangerous psychopath and they need the witnesses help to get SW convicted. Failing that, and if the witnesses might have been smoking dope or breaking the law in some way they might be convinced that it is better to co-operate with police than face charges. If the witnesses still don't budge or submerged some of their evidence into silence they are told they are confused and mistaken - if as confused and mistaken witnesses they are still used at trial the Crown tell the Jury that the witnesses were confused or mistaken because they in fact saw a 2 masted scow, with not sails or ropework, no bright brass portholes and not looking anything like an ocean going ketch of similar colour but not size above the water line. An abuse of process highlighted by the header picture here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/1981832275402540/
I've written previously about the abuse of process that was the forensic evidence in this case concerning 2-hairs said to come from Olivia Hope. How they were not found on any searches of SW's sloop the Blade, not found in several searches inside the ESR laboratory but eventually found on a subsequent search 3 months after they were first looked for among 100s of smaller in length brown hairs on a day when sample hairs form Olivia's home were in the lab despite rules that sample and questioned hairs should never been in the same lab and the same time.
Move forward 15 years to when Scott's first RPOM is thrown out. On that occasion there is new evidence from 2 primary witnesses that they were mistaken in identifying SW as a mystery stranger (remember here the Watson inquiry had been damned for its identification procedures.) That new evidence was actually evidence for a new Jury to decide as 'fact finders.' The Courts had learnt from the Bain Privy Council decision in 2007 that new evidence was for a Jury to decide its merits, but neither the Ministry of Justice or the RPOM reviewer Kristy McDonald used that the PC precedent instead they went back to Bain 2002 and 2004 decisions both of which had been overturned - again no process was in place. Correct process was to send the case back to the COA, not for McDonald to assume the role of a Jury patronise the witnesses good intentions but nevertheless say it didn't matter.
On what grounds then were the convictions upheld by McDonald? The 2-hairs, mysteriously found after months of searching. Because the 2-hairs were so controversial, and appreciating that forensic science in particular can move rapidly did Ms McDonald seek an update on developments in that area? No, an abuse of process once again. What would she have found if she had researched developments, here are a few;
a/That the subjective comparison methods of comparing DNA were no longer used.
b/The number of loci examined would no longer be 12 but rather 15+. In other words a broader and therefore safter sample.
c/ That the American FBI found 95% of convictions, using 'hair comparison' methods (as used by ESR in 1998) were overturned.
d/ She may also have found, by due diligence, that the reports by on British scientist in this case giving the odds of nuclear DNA (nDNA) was incorrectly used with Mitochondrial DNA (mDNA) giving the mDNA is this case an overrated and incorrect emphasis.
e/ She may have also found that the ESR hair specialist was not a specialist at all compared to overseas specialists, did not have the same training, did not have updated training introductions to new systems or be assessed. In other words not a specialist and someone who had mishandled evidence and against accreditation rules 'tested' sample and questioned (evidentiary) hairs at the same time.
I think just the FBI fail rate of convictions would have been enough for a reasonable and cautious reviewer intent on proper process.
But these are not the only reasons why the Watson convictions must fail, there is the totality of evidence published in several books, magazines, papers, documentaries and a movie. All of this held up by 2-hairs? Leap forwards in science, and legal precedence as to what new evidence, and how evidence may not necessarily need to be new to warrant acceptance - makes no difference? Public disquiet makes no difference, the public interest not served?
There are actually 100s of reasons why the Watson convictions must fail, some of those promote a single reason why, others bind together in continuity to reveal a wider picture of innocence - the exact thing Kristy McDonald never did.
There has never been more known about this case, what was hidden, where the Crown cheated, and how evidence can be looked at afresh - it's about to burst open.