Journalist verdict on Scott Watson

The case against Scott Watson has been getting plenty of attention again recently. One journalist who covered the entire case and trial is convinced the jury verdict was correct, and most other journalists who covered the trial agreed.

Andi Brotherston: The case against Scott Watson

I covered the story for TV3 from the very beginning to the very end and was one of the 13 journalists on the media bench who sat through the entire trial. Unlike the jury, we didn’t have to keep an open mind. In fact, at the beginning of the trial most of us thought the Crown was on a hiding to nothing and Watson would walk.

It took three months to present and test the evidence and at the conclusion, the jury returned a unanimous guilty verdict. While the jury deliberated, we conducted an anonymous poll of the media bench. Twelve of us believed Watson was guilty, one wasn’t convinced.

That doesn’t guarantee that Watson is guilty but it is a strong corroboration of the jury verdict.

Only the members of the jury will ever know what convinced them all of Watson’s guilt, but there were a couple of compelling things that must have influenced them.

What Watson didn’t do or didn’t say, rather than what he did, is likely to have played a part in their decision-making. Watson’s behaviour often seemed inconsistent with innocence.

When Watson was first interviewed by police he lied about what he was wearing on New Year’s Eve.

Being found to have lied doesn’t look good.

Later, photos emerged of him in totally different clothing than he’d described to police. He was pictured in a chambray shirt and denim jeans. Police asked him to bring those items into the station. He didn’t.

He told police he couldn’t find them because he’d moved around a lot and they could be at quite a few different places.

The context is this: If you were innocent and had nothing to hide, you’d find the clothes. If you were innocent, had become the prime suspect and were going down for a double murder, you’d go to the ends of the earth to find those clothes. The Crown alleged Watson didn’t want his clothes to be found and tested forensically.

Maybe.

The phone calls police intercepted and recorded between Watson and his former girlfriend was the evidence that appeared to slam the cell door shut.

It’s also evidence that only those in court have ever heard in full – it’s been forgotten, yet it’s the most compelling.

Police recorded 70-plus hours of Watson’s phone conversations and during that time they regularly fed Watson’s former girlfriend questions to ask.

Both the prosecution and defence had full access to the tapes and both sides could have used them to support their case. Only the prosecution did. The court listened to 40 minutes of edited conversations secretly recorded across several months.

My opinion was that Watson’s manner was odd. It was unnerving. The word that I keep coming back to is ‘smug’. The whole thing seemed like a game to him.

His responses to her questions were rehearsed or fudged. He toyed with her and obfuscated.

As the tape played, it became increasingly clear we were listening to a man completely devoid of compassion.

Watson may have sounded devoid of compassion, but that doesn’t necessarily mean he was guilty of the murders.

But what was really striking was his lack of denial. He never once said: “I didn’t do it.”

At the time, this was glaring and telling. It seemed profoundly important to me and I doubt it was lost on the jury.

My thoughts on this were reinforced recently when I read about the CIA’s ‘spy the lie’ programme. It’s an international best-practice tool, used by law enforcement agencies all over the world to identify lies/liars during interviews with crime suspects.

The CIA has identified ‘failure to deny’ as a key indicator of guilt.

Former CIA agent Susan Carnicero says: “The most important thing to an innocent person is to deny they did something; the truth is their biggest ally.”

So why don’t defence counsels advise their clients to deny guilt? Perhaps they do. But it would be risky if guilty, because the jury may perceive a lack of  credibility in the denial.

So, in summing up, no matter how the case continues to be selectively re-litigated, I believe Watson was found guilty for one very good reason – because he is guilty.

Brotherston’s account of the case adds weight to Watson being guilty, but I don’t know enough, and certainly didn’t see any of the trial, so can’t judge the verdict for myself.