21 Oct 2016

Gable Tostee's lawyer talks exclusively to Checkpoint

From Checkpoint, 6:07 pm on 21 October 2016

The not-guilty verdict in Gable Tostee's trial over the death of New Zealand woman Warriena Wright demonstrates the power of the jury system, his lawyer says.

Mr Tostee, 30, was accused of murdering Ms Wright, 26, after the two met via the dating app Tinder on the Gold Coast in early August 2014.

Ms Wright died after falling 14 floors from the balcony of his Surfers Paradise apartment.

During the trial, the Supreme Court in Brisbane was told Mr Tostee restrained Ms Wright and locked her on his balcony. 

The Crown argued Ms Wright had felt so intimidated she died trying to escape, but the defence said he was trying to de-escalate the situation after a violent and drunken altercation.

The jury yesterday found Mr Tostee not guilty of murder or manslaughter.

The ABC has reported Mr Tostee was jailed over a July 2014 drink-driving police pursuit and had previously been involved in a fake ID scam.

He had reportedly boasted about bedding more than 100 women.

Mr Tostee's defence lawyer, Saul Holt, told Checkpoint with John Campbell that the case demonstrated the power of the jury system.

"What the jury said is actually someone should be judged on what they did now, what they did in relation to this matter, not judged on the basis of their history, or their past or anything else that they've done.

"All of those matters, or at least the vast majority, were in the public domain before this trial started, in a way that I've never seen before in a criminal trial."

Mr Tostee had started secretly recording his date with Ms Wright on his phone about an hour before the fatal fall, with the recording becoming a key piece of evidence in the trial.

Mr Holt was able to tell the jury they had heard everything, he said.

"We could have, had we chosen to, had the tape edited to remove references in conversations that he had with Warriena Wright on that night, about previous dealings with the police, and we chose not to."

Mr Holt, who is a former Palmerston North Crown prosecutor, confirmed he had unsuccessfully applied for a mistrial yesterday, before the verdict was delivered, with concerns about the behaviour of a juror who had used Instagram during deliberations.

He said the juror hadn't spoken about the evidence, but had spoken about the trial. 

"It was in breach of the very clear directions the judge had given at the beginning of the trial and our concern was that, if a juror wasn't following one direction, could we have confidence that she was following others."

Mr Holt said requesting a mistrial without knowing the verdict had been one of the hardest decisions for him.

Ms Wright's family said yesterday, through a spokesperson, that the trial had been "incredibly traumatic".

Media attention had added another layer of stress, they said - and asked for their privacy to be respected.