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By Jane Goodman-Delahunty

In the course of a terrorism trial in Sydney,  approximately 450 extremist images, including six beheading videos, were submitted to the court.

To support the contention that the extremist and gruesome images created a risk of unfair prejudice, the defence ask the author to prepare a written report addressing six specific questions about this evidence in the light of the published scholarly research findings on the topic.

The six questions were as follows:

  1. What is the likely impact on jurors of graphic images of injured civilians, deceased persons, distressing images and beheadings?
  2. What is the impact of images of September 11, 2001 attacks?
  3. What is the likelihood of emotional versus rational responses to the graphic material?
  4. What is the collective impact of the number of images and their influence on propensity to convict, as opposed to presentation of one or two images in a category?
  5. What is the impact of the form of presentation: edited DVD with captions and commentary?
  6. What is the influence of judicial directions on use of evidence and emotions?

The report prepared according to these instructions and submitted to the court is reproduced in this chapter in its entirety. The report summarised research findings on gruesome and extremist images and concluded that the prosecution evidence pose a risk of unfairly producing the jury against the defendants and that research on the effectiveness of standard jury instructions showed they were in adequate to manage the risk.

This chapter outlines the response of the prosecution, the judgement of the court and the judicial direction given to the jury before displaying the images at that trial .

This chapter is useful for:

  • Students, teachers, researchers – in Law, Psychology and Communications
  • Practitioners of law and criminal justice
  • Forensic scientists and psychologists
  • Police, national security officers and court officials
  • Policymakers
  • Journalists.

This chapter is in the book Juries, Science and Popular Culture in the Age of Terror

Buy the chapter