DNA could hold the key to freedom
THE man who has now served 12 years in jail for the murder of Tasha Douty on Brampton Island in 1983 is on the verge of submitting an application for a pardon to the Queensland Governor.
Wayne Butler was convicted of Douty's murder nearly 18 years after the fact in 2001, but he has always maintained his innocence.
And the man who has become a powerful ally in his quest to quash his conviction and find freedom believes poor science is being used to convict people in Queensland.
Professor Barry Boettcher said if he was dealing with a case in NSW he would be able to approach a Supreme Court judge and ask for a 475 inquiry (which provides for the review of a criminal case where new evidence comes to light).
Though Butler appealed his conviction in 2009 and it was dismissed, Prof Boettcher said later information obtained under Right to Information (RTI, formerly Freedom of Information), some as recently as last month, prove he was wrongly convicted.
"I am concerned that the standard of forensic science (in Queensland) is not what members of the public assume, expect and should require," Prof Boettcher said.
"In this case, the evidence was always there, but it was hidden, and there is no legal avenue to air his (Mr Butler's) concerns."
The evidence Prof Boettcher refers to relates to DNA testing of semen stains found on the towel covering Ms Douty's body when it was found at Dinghy Bay on Brampton Island.
The professor said newly obtained records - minutes, DNA spreadsheets and hand-written notes made by forensic scientists at the John Tonge Centre - refute the testimony given at Mr Butler's trial.
He said that these records led him to fear that an exhibit produced at Mr Butler's appeal in 2009 was erroneous.
"I am concerned about the poor science being used in government laboratories to convict people," Prof Boettcher said.
Prof Boettcher has been referred to as "a crusader for justice" in the NSW parliament because of a quashed conviction and compensation for Doug Rendell who served eight years for a murder he didn't commit. The professor also provided crucial evidence for the defence in the Lindy Chamberlain case.
THE SERIES OF EVENTS
1983 - Tasha Douty was murdered on Brampton Island on September 1
1988 - Day tripper Wayne Butler charged, but released within a month
1997 - Butler arrested again
2001 - Butler sentenced to life for her murder