"Everything that could have been done was not done to ensure a fair trial" - DONALD FINLAY QC
Story in full LUKE Mitchell, the teenager jailed for at least 20 years for the murder and mutilation of his girlfriend Jodi Jones, did not receive a fair trial because of media coverage of the case, a court heard yesterday.
His defence counsel, Donald Findlay, QC, said the trial should have been moved from Edinburgh, close to where the killing took place, because of pre-trial publicity. He also said charges concerning knives and drugs should have been separated from the murder charge because of the prejudice they created against Mitchell.
Those claims had previously been rejected by a judge as grounds for appeal, but Mr Findlay argued that these, and a number of other factors, ought to be reinstated for the full hearing of Mitchell's appeal.
Both Jodi's mother, Judy Jones, and Mitchell's mother, Corinne Mitchell, attended the hearing at the Court of Criminal Appeal in Edinburgh. They sat only feet apart but hardly glanced in the other's direction. Each declined to comment as they left.
At one stage, Mr Findlay, by a slip of the tongue, referred to "Jodi Mitchell" and that drew an angry reaction from members of the dead girl's family.
Mitchell, wearing a dark, double-breasted suit and blue shirt and tie, appeared to have lost weight since his trial almost two years ago.
Jodi was 14 when she was murdered in June 2003 in woods at Roan's Dyke path, a shortcut between her home in Easthouses, Dalkeith, and Mitchell's house in Newbattle. Her throat was slit and her body was mutilated.
Mitchell "found" her body after volunteering to help her family search for her.
Jodi's injuries bore some resemblance to those depicted in paintings by rock star Marilyn Manson of Elizabeth Short, a Hollywood starlet known as the Black Dahlia, murdered in 1947.
During Mitchell's trial, the jury heard he was a regular user of cannabis who had an interest in satanism and was a fan of Manson. He was convicted on a majority verdict of murdering Jodi and received the mandatory sentence of detention without limit of time. He was told he would have to serve 20 years before he could apply for parole.
Yesterday, three judges, Lord Hamilton, the Lord Justice-General, and Lords Kingarth and MacLean, said they would decide later whether the omitted grounds of appeal would be allowed back into the case.
Appeals are "sifted" so that only those grounds deemed arguable are allowed to go forward to a full hearing.
In Mitchell's case, several grounds passed the sifting process. Those include the claim there was insufficient evidence to entitle the jury to convict him of the murder because there was no eye-witness and a "total absence of forensic evidence".
Yesterday, Mr Findlay submitted that before the trial, Mitchell had been "tried by the media in a vicious manner".
He said a request to move the trial from Edinburgh had been refused.
"Everything that could have been done was not done to ensure a fair trial," he claimed.
Mr Findlay said charges of possessing knives and supplying cannabis resin to others had no direct bearing on the murder charge, yet evidence about them might have created a picture of a "law-disregarding druggie".
He also said that he should be allowed to take forward to the full appeal - on a date still to be fixed - claims that the trial judge had not given the jury enough guidance on how to approach a circumstantial case, and that the jury should have been sent to a hotel overnight instead of being allowed to go home after failing on the first day of deliberations to reach a verdict.