Family of convicted murderer 'realistic' about appeal

·3-min read

A man who has spent nearly four decades in prison for a crime he says he didn't commit is feeling calm and confident but realistic about his appeal being heard in Australia's highest court.

Derek John Bromley and an accomplice, John Karpany, were jailed for life for the 1984 murder of Stephen Docoza after his body was found floating in Adelaide's River Torrens.

Since his conviction, multiple appeals have been dismissed but Bromley has always maintained his innocence.

His latest appeal is based on new psychiatric and psychological evidence which his lawyers argue make the account given by the prosecution's central witness Gary Carter unreliable.

Mr Carter had a schizoaffective disorder and Stephen Keim SC, representing Bromley, argued this meant there was an "extremely high likelihood" that his account of events was inaccurate.

On Wednesday, Mr Keim stepped the High Court through various inaccuracies in Mr Carter's account and how it differed from multiple police officers and a taxi driver on the night.

He said the new psychiatric evidence stressed Mr Carter's account could only be accepted if every part was corroborated, which had not occurred at the trial.

"What the jury was asked to do, what the trial judge directed them to do, is not able to be replicated in the face of new supplementary evidence," Mr Keim said. 

"There are so many contradictions ... Carter's memory is full of gaps.

"At every point (Carter's account) is not corroborated and it's not corroborated by anything that is incriminatory of Bromley."

In 2018, three SA Court of Criminal Appeal justices dismissed Bromley's application to appeal after ruling the new evidence about the key witness was not compelling.

But Mr Keim argued the lower court ignored medical evidence that Mr Carter's schizoaffective disorder was likely to make him suggestible and therefore unreliable.

He said the new evidence was clear and uncontested but the lower court had misstated it as something it could ignore.

Mr Keim argued if the matter was put to trial today, the court would have a better understanding of Mr Carter's medical condition and the judge would need to give different directions to the jury.

Bromley's brother's former wife Robyn Milera, who has campaigned for his freedom for more than 20 years, attended proceedings on behalf of the family who were not able to travel to Canberra.

She spoke to Bromley on Tuesday morning and said he was feeling confident but also realistic, considering appeals processes have failed in the past.

"There's been many setbacks along the way, so we're prepared for anything," Ms Milera told reporters.

"But I do have confidence that the High Court will apply the law.

"Derek (told) me that he knows exactly what it is to be disappointed, to fail and to have to get back up and keep going."

Ms Milera said the appeal was a critical opportunity for the family to heal from the trauma of his conviction.

"Derek's made a stand that, when you analyse it and think about it, is absolutely extraordinary," she said.

"He's not for a moment given up or stopped believing that eventually he would get a good result.

"He's said, 'I know I didn't do it, but I didn't get a fair trial', and that's what the legal question is."

The matter is being heard by five High Court justices over two days. The Crown will present its case on Thursday.

Bromley has been in prison since 1985, having been denied parole because he has maintained his innocence throughout.