The following morning Emily woke early after an interrupted night’s sleep on an uncomfortable vinyl covered mattress in a cold cell.
A police woman brought Emily in a change of clothes in a sports bag she immediately recognised. The cop informed a surprised Emily that her husband provided these changes of clothes for her.
Day two of Emily’s trial heard evidence from prosecution witnesses. Most were from specialist groups within Victoria Police; Forensics, Search and Rescue, Police IT technicians. Duncan only cross-examined some these witnesses.
Late in the afternoon the prosecution called their last witness, a professor of psychology and psychiatry. The prosecution clearly wanted this evidence to be the last presented, and therefore the last evidence remembered by the Jury.
Professor Glen Schultz was called. A tall, lean built man in his mid to late sixties, dressed in a dark grey suit and striped tie, entered the court room. His distinguished silver grey hair and close-cropped beard reminded Emily of a skinny Sean Connery.
He strode with confidence through the court to the witness box. The Tipstaff swore the Professor in by affirmation; an alternative process for any witness who declined to take a sworn oath to God, due to their lack of a religious faith.
The Crown subpoenaed the professor as an expert witness to give evidence about his scientific tests disproving the existence of an afterlife and people’s ability to communicate with the dead.
The Prosecutor stood from his seat to address the witness. He firstly qualified the witness as an expert. ‘Professor, please explain to the court your academic qualifications.’
The Professor adjusted himself in his seat. His back straightened. It was evident he was comfortable talking about himself. ‘I am a professor of psychology, medicine, neurology and psychiatry from the Australian National University. I received my Ph.D. in psychology from Harvard University. I lectured at Australia National University and then Melbourne University for over twenty-five years as a professor of psychology and psychiatry. I have published more than 380 scientific papers.’
The witness went on to provide evidence of what he referred to as “unbiased scientific studies” he conducted on one hundred volunteers over a three year period. Each volunteer claimed to possess Psychic Medium abilities.
He gave evidence how his tests concluded that there was no scientific evidence, or data to prove that a person had the ability to communicate with someone who had passed away, or that an afterlife even existed. His expert evidence was that any person who claimed to be a psychic medium was a fraud.
The Professor’s “fraud” reference caused almost every Juror to glance across at Emily. To her credit Emily remained unmoved. Her expression didn’t change.
The Prosecutor gestured towards Emily in the dock. ‘What would you say if I told you the accused in this matter claims she spoke to seven different dead people, all of whom gave her the location of where to find their bodies?’
The witness scoffed. ‘I’d say given the lack of scientific evidence… anyone who is prepared to believe that assertion is foolish… and frankly, quite gullible….’
This time it was Emily who cast her eyes over the Jury. This witness just challenged the impartiality of the Jury. According to him, if any Juror believed Emily was visited by the seven victims, they were ‘foolish and gullible’.
The Professor continued. ‘Allow me to qualify my comments. I make those comments based solely on scientific fact, not personal bias. I don’t know that young woman over there and I don’t know the extent of the crimes to which she is answering here today…but my scientific tests prove that every person I tested failed to prove they could contact the afterlife.’
Duncan continued to monitor the Jury while the Crown Prosecutor led the professor through his evidence. They all appeared impressed, with many scribbling notes.
When the Prosecutor completed his questions for this witness, he returned to his seat.
Duncan stood to address the witness. He read from his note pad. ‘One hundred people over a three year period…’ Duncan said. ‘I’m no expert on empirical studies, professor, but is that number an adequate sample size from which to draw such a conclusion?’
‘Wouldn’t such a small sample size return an unfair, or generalised result?’
‘It would return sufficient data from which to draw a scientific conclusion.’
’A conclusion based on only one hundred volunteers…I put it to you professor that the sample size is far too small to be a credible scientific finding. All your tests have proven is those one hundred people failed to adequately satisfy your criteria for demonstrating they possessed Mediumship skills.
The witness shrugged. ‘That’s your opinion, Counsellor.’
Duncan had to work to try and discredit the evidence provided by this highly qualified and educated witness. His esteemed qualifications provided the witness with instant credibility, even before he presented any evidence. It was time Duncan played his trump card.
‘Have you heard of Craig Elliott…?’
The Professor lifted his eyes to the ceiling. ’Not that I can recall.’
‘Allow me to remind you professor. Craig Elliott is a commentator and journalist specialising in psychic phenomena. You did an interview with him back in 2008.’
The Professor grinned. ‘I have participated in many interviews over a number of subjects, Counsellor.’ He smiled confidently at the Judge.
‘This interview was conducted in your office at Melbourne University…Mr Elliott interviewed you as a professor of psychology and psychiatry.’
‘I’m sorry. I don’t recall that specific interview.’
Duncan approached the witness and handed him a number of pages. ‘I draw your attention to that document you are holding, Professor. That is a transcript of the interview between you and Craig Elliott from 2008.’
The Professor read from the document. ‘Ah yes, I remember this interview. He was very persistent, so I granted him some time.’
‘So you were interviewed by Mr Elliott in 2008?’
‘That’s Correct.’ The Professor held out the pages to return them to Duncan.
‘Can I ask you to turn the page please professor and read out loud the highlighted text. The first part is a question asked of you by Craig Elliott and the second part is your answer. Start with the question please.’
The professor commenced to read out loud. ‘ELLIOTT…Given your esteem qualifications and learnings, I am interested in your opinion in relation to the afterlife and the ability to communicate with people who had died...?’
‘Thank you,’ Duncan said. ‘Please read out your response.’
The professor continued reading. ’SCHULTZ…There has never been any scientific tests to conclusively prove someone living can communicate with someone who had died. And I think it is preposterous to suggest they could. All over the world thousands of psychics and mediums have been exposed as the fraudulent tricksters that they are.
‘I rely on fact and what can be proven scientifically. I am proud to declare I am an evolutionist…and an agnostic. I do not believe there is any scientific evidence to prove the existence of a God. Consequently, I do not believe in the afterlife. I believe in finality. When we die, that is it. Over.’
‘Thank you Professor,’ Duncan said. ‘I produce that document as Defence Exhibit ED4 Your Honour...’
Duncan continued with his cross-examination of the witness. ’That interview you read indicates that as far back as 2008 you held a strong belief against one’s ability to communicate with the dead. I put it to you professor that you didn’t believe in Mediums then and you don’t believe in them now. Therefore your scientific study was not unbiased as you claimed, but was heavily biased against the abilities of Mediums.’
‘That interview was conducted before I undertook my scientific research into Mediums.’
‘I see. So what changed from 2008, when you openly disbelieved in the afterlife and Mediums? The findings from your scientific tests actually confirmed the beliefs you held in 2008. Why would you suddenly become unbiased towards something that you strongly believed was preposterous to entertain…?’
‘As a scientist I maintain an unbiased approach to all my research.’
‘I find it hard to accept professor that as a self-confessed agnostic with a strong disbelief in the existence of an afterlife…that you would be able to remain impartial during your tests.’
‘That is your opinion.’
‘These tests you conducted professor… were they all situations where a Medium attempted to summons forward a spirit of someone who had passed?’
‘So, these test would involve the one hundred volunteers conducting things like séances and Ouija boards… circumstances where the Medium tried to conjure up a particular dead person’s spirit…?’
‘I see…. How many scientific tests did you perform where the spirit instigated contact with the Medium?’
The professor held Duncan’s gaze while several beats passed by. ‘I’m not sure I understand your question… The Medium always attempts to contact the spirit.’
‘So you have no scientific findings… no experience or expertise in circumstances where someone from the afterlife contacts a Medium, not the other way around?’
‘No. I’ve not experienced those circumstances, but I’m sure my findings could extend to cover such an instance.’
‘If you have not conducted scientific tests on this particular aspect professor…you are not in a position to conclude such a finding, are you?’
‘I suppose not.’
Duncan returned to his seat.
Emily struggled to contain the smile emerging out the side of her face. She glanced at the Jury, then her eyes flicked to her family. Her dad smiled his approval back at her. She was confident Duncan showed the professor was biased. She hoped the Jury saw that too.
The clock showed 4.45pm when the Judge ordered the Jury to retire for the day. Shortly after, court was adjourned.
Day three of Emily’s trial commenced with the Duncan calling their defence witnesses.
First up was Boyd. When he entered the courtroom his focus moved straight to his wife. They exchanged a smile. Emily watched her husband stroll through the court room to the witness box. She nestled her hands between her thighs as she prepared to watch him give evidence. It was so good to see him again, even if it was from across the room.
Boyd’s evidence was straightforward. Duncan first questioned him about how Emily reacted to her night visits from people she didn’t recognise.
‘She would wake in fright, yelling out…’ Boyd said. ‘She would hyperventilate. It took her some time to settle down and go back to sleep.’
‘So she was clearly intimidated by these visits?’
‘How many times did these night terrors, caused by these visitors, occur?’
Boyd glanced at Emily. She smiled reassuringly. ‘Too many to recall…Maybe…forty…fifty times…’
‘Overall, how did these night visits impact on Emily’s health?’
He again glanced at his wife. ‘She was a mess. It distressed her. She was always tired. Always on edge. She didn’t know who these people were, or why they kept visiting her.’
Boyd gave evidence of how he and Emily attended a Medium seminar in Melbourne, as a way to try and learn what was happening to Emily.
‘What was the cost to attend this seminar?’
‘$140 each…’ Boyd said.
‘You and Emily paid a total of $280 to attend a Medium seminar, as a way to try and learn why Emily was receiving visits from people in her sleep…’ Duncan glanced at the Jury as he re-emphasised Boyd’s comments for their benefit.
Boyd gave evidence how the Medium hosting the event randomly selected Emily and invited her up on stage in front of everyone attending. He mentioned when Emily went up on stage the Medium discussed Emily’s night time visits.
‘Did this Medium appear surprised by what Emily told her about her visits…?’
‘Not at all. In fact, she explained exactly why my wife was being visited.’
‘What was her explanation?’
‘She said that Emily had a gift, which was the ability to communicate with dead people…and these dead people apparently know when someone has this gift and they seek them out…’
‘I see. Do you recall the name of the Medium who conducted this seminar?’ Duncan asked.
‘No. I’d remember it if I heard it… But no, I can’t recall her name.’
‘Was it Molly Williamson?’
Duncan informed the court how Molly Williamson recorded all her seminars and made them available for purchase from her website. Prior to the court case, Duncan had obtained a copy of this seminar recording. He played the excerpt to the court, from where the Medium invited Emily up on stage and questioned Emily about her night visitors.
Emily leaned her elbows on the front of the dock and watched the footage with interest. She had not seen this vision before, but she enjoyed watching it. Not because of some narcissistic admiration for how good she looked on stage. She enjoyed it because it went a long way to vindicating her in the eyes of the Jury. The Jury had the opportunity to see how Emily was genuine in her belief that she could see dead people.
When the playback of the interview ended Duncan asked Boyd, ‘was that the seminar you referred to earlier in your evidence?’
‘Thank you Mr Davis.’ Duncan returned to his seat.
The Prosecutor stood to cross-examine Boyd. His questions mainly related to Emily’s wake-in-fright reactions and how this could have been caused by nothing more than recurring nightmares that disturbed her sleep.
Boyd disagreed. The prosecutor pushed Boyd for a reason why he was so certain they weren’t just bad dreams.
‘Each morning, after Emily was visited by someone in her sleep, she described to me the person who visited her that night. I got to know from these descriptions, which one it was each time, who visited.’
‘How does that suggest they weren’t just bad dreams…?’
Boyd gestured to the 8 x 10 photos of the seven deceased on display. ‘Because the descriptions she gave matched them…The guy with the beard…the guy in the bike riding gear…the lady in the hiking clothes…even the lady with red hair, pale skin and green eyes… she described them all and she’d never met any of them before.’
The prosecutor’s face tightened. He forgot the Lawyer’s basic rule of cross examinations — never ask a question you don’t already know the answer to. He slid into his seat.
When Boyd was dismissed he moved and sat in the public gallery with Emily’s family. Emily watched Boyd until he sat. They exchanged a smile. She was so proud of her husband. He handled himself well under what she could only imagine would’ve been terrifying circumstances.
Next called was Naomi. The basis of her evidence was to tell the court how she was the one who located the Medium seminar online and suggested Emily attend. She told how Emily resisted at first, but later agreed to give it a try.
Naomi also gave evidence about how it was her idea for Emily to attend at the police station and tell them about the missing persons. Emily didn’t want to go at first.
‘Why was Emily hesitant to go to the police?’ Duncan asked.
‘She said if she told the police she’d talked to dead people, they would think she was a nut and probably lock her up…’ Naomi said. She glanced across to her friend in the dock. ‘She was right…’
‘Indeed,’ Duncan said. He too glanced across at Emily for emphasis. ‘Earlier you referred to these people as “Missing Persons…” How did you know these people who visited Emily in her sleep were missing persons?’ Duncan asked.
‘I found them on the police Missing Persons website and I showed Emily. Well not all of them. I think maybe one or two weren’t on there, but most were.’
’So, just to clarify. It was you who located these people,’ he said gesturing to the display of victim photographs, ‘on the Victoria Police Missing Persons website, not Emily…?’
‘I’m intrigued. Why did Emily visit the police station if she was worried about what the police would think of her?’
‘Partly because of my insisting…but mainly because she thought she would be helping the police locate these missing people.’
The prosecutor leapt to his feet. ‘Your Honour, this witness cannot possibly give evidence about what the accused was thinking…’ He whined, then slid back into his chair.
Duncan clarified. ‘Did Emily mention to you why she decided to go to the police station to inform them of her night visitors?’ Duncan asked.
‘Yes. Emily told me she wanted to help the police locate these missing persons…for their family’s’ sake,’ Naomi said. She gave the prosecutor her ‘happy now’ glare.
Duncan slid into his chair.
The Prosecutor did not have any questions for Naomi. She was excused. She exchanged a comforting smile with Emily as she moved to sit with Boyd in the front row. Emily watched Naomi sit then she exchanged a smile with her family, all of whom were gazing back at her.
She had no idea whether the case was proceeding favourably or unfavourably; that was Duncan’s area. She was just so happy to be able to see her family again, after spending such a long time away from them.
Max Higgins sat alone at the back of the court room monitoring proceedings. From his experience in these type of court cases, this was not going favourably for him. His biggest concern in taking this case to trial was his lack of evidence against Emily. The further the trial progressed, the more his concerns became reality.
No-one knew what a Jury thought during a trial, not even the experienced Max. Given they were all legal novices, it made them all the more unpredictable when it came to trying to predict a likely decision.
If he had to make a call right now, Max predicted the Jury would find in favour of the defence. He wasn’t happy, but he also wasn’t surprised.
The Judge glanced up at the wall clock. ‘How many more witnesses do you intend to call Mr Jervis?’
Duncan stood as he flipped through documents on the desk in front of him. He accepted a document from one of his assisting colleagues. ‘Ah…We have one more witness…possibly two more to call, Your Honour.’
‘Very well. We will continue with your final witnesses tomorrow. Remove the Jury the please,’ The Judge directed.
Emily watched with interest while the Jurors stood and filed out; front row first, followed closely by the back row. These were the people who held her future in their hands. It was disconcerting that twelve people she’d never met, would eventually make a decision that would have little, to no impact on them individually, but would be life-changing for her.
Her wandering gaze landed on her family. They all looked back at her as she stood in the dock, about to leave. Each one had concern etched into their faces. Emily did her best to give them a reassuring smile, even though deep down, her stomach churned.
She blew Boyd a kiss and mouthed, ‘I love you,’ to him. He did the same back to her.
Once the Judge exited, Emily gave a departing wave to Boyd and her family before she stepped through the doorway on her way back to the cells.