Jury asks questions about Hicks coaching brother in witness box

The Harley Hicks trial

A SUPREME Court jury asked for a break in proceedings after seeing what jurors thought was the man found guilty of murdering baby Zayden Veal-Whitting trying to coach his brother in the witness box.

Justice Stephen Kaye told the court the jury had “the perception that the accused man might be trying to coach the witness, Joshua Hicks’’.

“Several of the jurors have observed the accused man shaking his head and nodding his head in the direction of Joshua in response to questions by counsel,’’ he said.

“The jury has observed Joshua also looking in that direction towards the back of the court but they have not observed any body language by him to suggest he is communicating with the accused.’’

Crown prosecutor Michele Williams SC told the court her instructing solicitor had also conveyed similar concerns.

Defence counsel David Hallowes said his client had been spoken with many times in relation to the topic.

“Certainly this is not the first time it’s been conveyed to him, so maybe if it comes from your honour with that sting in the tail, that may assist,’’ Mr Hallowes said.

Justice Kaye ordered Hicks not to interact in any way with those giving evidence.

“Now I want you to understand and understand fully that when witnesses give evidence you are not to shake your head, nod your head, smile or anything,’’ he said.

 “There are two problems with that – whether or not you’re intending to do so, it could be that by doing that you signal to a witness the answer you wish the witness to have and that can affect the witness’ evidence.

“Secondly, and worse still for you, is that the jury could perceive that you are trying to undermine the credibility of the witness and the integrity of the witness’ evidence.

“On both scores it is a very foolish thing that you are doing.’’

Justice Kaye commended the jury for bringing the matter to his attention, saying jurors did “absolutely the right thing’’.

“Having done that now, could I ask you to put those observations out of your mind as you assess the evidence,’’ he said.

“It is most important that whatever you saw you do not permit it to prejudice the way that you assess the evidence in this case.

“As I said to you at the outset, your role will be to rationally assess the evidence and the strength or otherwise of the evidence against the accused man in this case.

“I ask you not to be affected by what any of you saw in that regard.’’