Brittany Higgins was a former parliamentary aide. She alleged that she had been raped by a colleague, Bruce Lehrmann, in Australia’s federal Parliament House in 2019. Higgins went public with her accusation early last year. After that a wave of outrage followed, helping to oust the governing conservative coalition in national elections five months ago.
After a week of jury deliberations, the case reached a crescendo at breakneck speed.
The first sign strayed in the trial of Bruce Lehrmann came just before 8.30 am on Thursday.
A note sent by staff working for the ACT supreme court chief justice, Lucy McCallum, landed in the inboxes of observers, advising the court would be convening at an unusually early time.
Brittany Higgins and her partner, David Sharaz, were also in the public gallery for the first time during the trial, accompanied by the victims of crime commissioner, Heidi Yates.
Mr. Lehrmann constantly denied that any sexual activity took place between him and Ms. Higgins. His lawyer Steven Whybrow has referred public comments made by Brittany Higgins on Thursday to the court. He argued in his opening statement that inconsistencies in Ms. Higgins’s account had been overshadowed by a shift in the national conversation about violence against women.
The case, he said, epitomized the Mark Twain quote “never let the truth get in the way of a good story,” adding that “this was a story whose time had come.”
McCallum arrived and quickly told the court that a juror was being investigated for misconduct. The juror was thought to have brought in outside research material into the court, something jurors are told repeatedly not to do.
Everyone, including Higgins and her supporters, were asked to leave the court while McCallum questioned the juror.
Finally the Mistry was solved.
A juror was found to have brought outside research on sexual assaults into the jury room. So, the court dismissed the jury in Lehrmann’s trial over his alleged rape of Higgins in sensational circumstances on Thursday.
After the decision, Higgins made an emotional statement outside the ACT supreme court . She thanked her supporters and also levelled criticisms against the justice system.
In her statement, Higgins said her life had been “completely scrutinized, open for the world to see”, while making criticisms of the accused’s right to silence.
“I have heard an explanation and it may be that no harm has been done, but that is not a risk that I can take,” she said. “In the circumstances, I have discharged that juror and I have to discharge you all.”
“I was required to tell the truth under oath for over a week on the witness stand and was cross-examined at length.”
The sitting judge in the case has called it a “word against word” proceeding.
People expressed mixed reactions on this matter. Condemning Ms. Higgins, @Truthdriveron posted on Twitter, ” Brittany Higgins losing her shit after the jury were sacked, of course, she was blaming the accused again, just disgraceful behavior from Miss Higgins.”
However, many of them supported Brittany Higgins.
Our thoughts are with Brittany Higgins.— David Shoebridge (@DavidShoebridge) October 26, 2022
After 12 harrowing days in court, with 29 witnesses taking the stand, she will now have to wait until a new trial in February.