Tuesday, September 14, 2004

Fairness and access to witnesses

In USA v Moussaoui USCA 4th Circuit No 03-4792, 13 September 2004, the prosecution refused to permit the accused access to three detainees whom he wanted to call as witnesses. The detainees were (are) under interrogation, and according to the prosecution it would not be in the public interest to interrupt that process. The Court recognised that fundamental questions arose here, including the accused's constitutional right to a fair trial. The parties were ordered to try to negotiate a satisfactory procedure.
Here, the issue of the right to present a defence was essentially that dealt with, on different facts, in R v B [1995] 2 NZLR 172 (CA) and R v Griffin [2001] 3 NZLR 577 (CA). It may be, upon careful analysis of the circumstances, a fair procedure can be devised; but if not, the proceedings should be stayed, at least until such time as adequate access to witnesses is granted to the accused.

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