The late Johsh Warneke (1994-2010) with his mother, Ingrid Bishop
by Mary W Maxwell, LLB
Martin Bryant will turn 50 on May 7, 2017, hopefully not in prison. What? “Hopefully not in prison?” Are we living in fantasy world? No. We are living in a world where a person whose “guilty plea” was made under coercion or by deception, is shown the door of the jail.
That happened this week in Perth. Gene Gibson, after “serving” five years (don’t you love that expression) walked out of Casuarina maximum-security prison. “WA Police commissioner Karl O’Callaghan today said he ‘deeply regretted’ the part his officers had played in that miscarriage of justice adding that he was willing to meet with Mr Gibson personally to express his regret.”
(’Zat like Ray Groom, former premier of Tassie, saying “I’m deeply sorry that Bryant has been ‘serving’ 21 years for what was basically a false flag and I want to console him personally”?)
Here are the barebones of the Gibson case. And by the way I just Googled for “Gene Gibson, Marin Bryant” and got nothing, so I guess media does not feel inspired to draw the obvious comparison.
The Sad Event in 2010
In 2010 a young man in Broome was murdered and left on the side of the road. It seems that no one knows, even now, who did it. That was Josh Warneke, a landscaper, age 21. His mother, Ingrid Bishop, figures prominently in the story of the release last week of the wrongly-convicted prisoner, Gene Gibson. I’ll get back to Ingrid later; she is my new hero.
It seems that for two years there were no developments in the case. Then, don’t ask me why, the WA police put up a Reward of $100,000 for information leading to the arrest…etc.”
Out of the woodwork came a man who said he had been in a car with Gene Gibson and two others that night, and that Gene Gibson did the killing of Josh Warneke. This is the first time I have encountered a Reward causing the dirty to happen, but maybe it happens a lot.
The autopsy had said that the deceased died from a blow to the head, probably a sharp object like a tomahawk [!] or a pole. Note: I’m taking information here from Thursday April13, 2017 Western Australian, in an article “The Morning Two Men’s Fates Crossed,” by journalist Grant Taylor.
The Rewarded Witness
Now comes forward a “witness” – name not listed – who said he was in the car driven by Gene Gibson, but was asleep in the back seat. He heard a bump and was told by the driver that the car had hit a man. Note: that witness named two others who were in the car but these denied to police that they were in the car. I quote Taylor:
“But after pressure from police they changed their stories [I wonder what the “pressure” took the form of] and in August 2012 two junior detectives were sent to Kiwirrkurra to take a statement from Mr Gibson.
“Despite Mr Gibson’s limited grasp of English and cognitive issues… the interviews were conducted without an interpreter or a lawyer [did the cops read Gibson his “Miranda’s”?]. It was in these lengthy interviews that Mr Gibson “confessed” to hitting Mr Warneke with a car.
After more hours [note: hours] of questioning, he changed his story to say he had hit him with a rock. When detectives suggested the weapon might have been an axe or a pole [who are they to suggest anything?] Mr Gibson changed his story again to say it was a pole.”
Since that’s quite different from a negligent hit of a pedestrian, you would think it would lead to some questioning as to Gibson’s motive for getting out of his car — and maybe a few questions about the availability of a pole, but The Western Australian does not fill this in. I assume Ingrid knows the details so maybe we can ask her someday.
Thus far in the story we’ve gone from a 2010 killing to a 2012 arrest of Gibson. The next item is a July 2014 trial (why does it take so long?). The first sign of judicial competence now appears in the case: the judge ruled Gibson’s video’d confession inadmissible in court.
So what would you do if you were the prosecutor (and whom do the state prosecutors in Australia actually work for)? You might drop the prosecution of Gibson. But instead the prosecutor offered Gibson a plea deal: manslaughter, with seven-and-a-half year sentence.
In my opinion that’s a lot of taxpayer money, as the prisoner would have to to get room and board for almost 3,000 days.
Gibson accepted and pleaded guilty.
The Appeals Ruling in WA Supreme Court
Now comes Ingrid, the mother of Josh Warnecke whose body was found on the side of the road in Broome that night. She doesn’t like injustice any more for the accused Gibson than for her murdered son. She just doesn’t like injustice in general!
So it’s apparently to this lady that we owe the recent appeals case in which Gibson’s conviction was overturned by three judges. It took another two and a half years (why?) for the appeal to be heard. I’ll now quote Tim Clarke, from perthnow.com.au, in an April 12, 2017 article entitled “WA Court Overturns Gene Gibson Conviction for Manslaughter of Josh Warneke.”
Be thinking “Martin Bryant” as you read this:
“Last week, during a hearing at WA’s Court of Appeal, some of WA’s leading lawyers – acting without pay for the Pintupi man – argued that Gibson’s own confession should be deemed unsafe.
“They said his plea was induced by ‘false or materially unreliable evidence’, and Gibson’s ‘cognitive defects’ and language difficulties ‘significantly compromised’ his ability to understand what was happening to him after he was arrested, charged and remanded.
“The three judge panel headed by Appeal Court president Justice Michael Buss unanimously agreed on Wednesday that the conviction should be quashed.
“With no prospect of a retrial, that means Gibson is a free man and will be released from Casuarina prison as soon as today.”
Ingrid Bishop is not exactly the mother in this appeals case so I will call her the mother-in-law. It was her son who died in 2010. He’d be 28 now if he had not been hit on the head. She knew all along that Gibson was not the killer, and this week, instead of showing up in court for the announcement of the acquittal she wanted to be at the door of Casuarina Prison to watch Gibson go free.
I now quote the front-page story from the Western Australian of April 13, 2017 entitled “How Justice Failed,” by Tim Clarke, Legal Affairs Editor (I wonder if the Hobart Mercury has a “legal affairs editor” – I’ll do it for free!):
“Michael Lundberg, partner at law firm King and Wood Malleson, which ran Mr Gibson’s appeal said: …’We wish to acknowledge Josh’s mother Ingrid Bishop, who has publicly supported our client’s cause.’
“Ms Bishop who attended last week’s appeal hearings, said Mr Gibson’s release was ‘one of the most profound moments of my life.’
“She was highly critical of the Aboriginal Legal Service] I am, too, in SA]. ‘The very agency tasked with protecting and supporting Gene failed dismally, and has taken the process of justice back 50 years for Aboriginal Australians,’ she said.” [Remember 1967?]
Here’s the best bit:
“Premier Mark McGowan said a modern justice system should not fall down because people didn’t understand the language or suffered mental impairment.”
No, wait, here’s the really, really best bit:
“Police Commissioner O’Callaghan revealed three of the police castigated over their role in the initial investigation had not accepted blame and would now face an internal disciplinary process.”
The hell they will! They’ll face a criminal process! Perverting the course of justice is just as much a crime when committed by police as by anyone else.
We need to deal with this.
Are you with me, Ingrid?
— Mary W Maxwell is an aspiring jailhouse lawyer based in Adelaide, with sights set on Hobart for May 7, 2017.