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Features

Louise Woodward Index

Latest news: Straight from the LondonNet newsdesk
Previous news From our archive: Life sentence, D-Day for Louise
Judgement delivered on WWW: Ruling delivered live on the net
Louise Appeal: The likely defence submissions
Louise Woodward Campaign: Contact details
Guilty or Not Guilty?: You have your say
Links: Other sites covering the trial

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LondonNet Comment
by P.D.Clee, LondonNet Publisher and Barrister-at-Law

Two hundred years ago French philosopher Voltaire enlightened us with the principle that it is far better to risk acquitting a guilty man than to ever chance convicting an innocent man.

Throughout Louise Woodward's trial and appeal we have striven to keep an open mind as to the au pair's guilt or innocence. While other members of the press first condemned her and then rushed to condemn the US legal system, we have always held true to the principle that judgement can only occur by one's peers at the end of a full and fair trial. True judgement is not the preserve of the media but of judge and jury.

We did have serious doubts about the conduct of the trial, however. Our criticisms of Judge Zobel centred around his inability to reign in an over-zealous and prejudiced prosecution who appeared to fail in their ultimate duty as "officers of the court" to ensure Louise had a fair trial. When prosecutions go off the rails we all lose. Again this is no preserve of the US system, remember the Birmingham Six, the Guildford Four and the Bridgewater Three?

The latest developments surrounding claims that one of Louise's defence team believes she is guilty shows just how far this farce has gone. As a defence trial lawyer the most common question you are asked is "what if you think your client is guilty?". Who cares. That is not your job, rather you must focus your attention on representing your client's case to the best of your abilities.

Elaine Whitfield-Sharp's admissions first to a traffic-cop then to a friend in a taped call, if true, surely finally rule out any chance that Louise can be dealt with fairly in this mess. First her trial was tainted, now her appeal will be decided under a cloud of gossip and second-guessing.

So no one will ever the know the real truth by any fair measure of justice. Baby Matthew Eappen is dead. Rightly or wrongly the name Louise Woodward will always be associated with his death. However a safe conviction can only occur after a fair trial and where there is no reasonable doubt. Neither test has ever been nor indeed can ever be met.

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