The judge will ask members of the jury panel in the trial of the man accused of raping Brittany Higgins to excuse them if they follow Higgins on Twitter or see her talk about the allegations at a public event.
The chief justice of the ACT Supreme Court, Lucy McCallum, expressed her thoughts on jury enrollment in a brief pre-trial reference on Friday, saying she would ask potential jurors to “search their souls about whether they can be impartial”.
Bruce Lehrman pleaded not guilty to sexually assaulting Higgins, a former Liberal activist, at Parliament House in Canberra in 2019. The case went to trial for seven weeks till October 4
McCallum told the court on Friday that he wanted members of the jury panel to excuse themselves if they attended an event where Higgins spoke publicly about the allegations.
“I also thought about flushing anyone who followed Ms. Higgins on Twitter,” he said.
“Anyone who attended these events or followed him on Twitter should come forward and apologize, or at least consider whether they can. [participate] – It would depend on why they were there, if it was a security guard or a journalist, they certainly don’t need to be excused.”
McCallum said he “effectively indicated … that they are a champion of the cause” or want to remove anyone with strong views on the other side.
“It’s hard – it’s very hard,” he said. “I just have to ask people to search their souls and ask if they can be neutral.”
Beyond that, potential jurors will only be given general instructions, including “listening carefully to witnesses,” he said.
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McCallum said he would not try to exclude “anyone who knows Lisa Wilkinson”, referring to the Channel 10 journalist who conducted a TV interview with Higgins.
McCallum asked Lehrman’s defense team to provide any material other than the Crown’s witness list before preparing comments to the jury “any other person or connection I should mention that I should inquire about”.
The matter was adjourned until Thursday, September 29, for McCallum to deal with final pre-trial issues, including a possible privilege claim over material produced by the Australian Federal Police relating to the Higgins interview.