Title

The Trial of Lindy and Michael Chamberlain ('The Dingo Trial')

Document Type

Article

Abstract

On August 17, 1980, at a campsite near Australia's famous Ayer's Rock, a mother's cry came out of the dark: My God, my God, the dingo's got my baby! Soon the people of an entire continent would be choosing sides in a debate over whether the cry heard that night marked an astonishing and rare human fatality caused by Australia's wild dogs or was, rather, in the words of the man who would eventually prosecute her for murder, a calculated, fanciful lie. A jury of nine men and three women came to believe the latter story and convicted Lindy Chamberlain for the murder of her ten-week-old daughter, Azaria.

Three years later, while Lindy dealt with daily life in a Darwin prison, police investigating the death of a fallen climber discovered Azaria's matinee jacket near a dingo den, and the Australian public confronted the reality that its justice system had failed. A Cry in the Dark, a movie starring Meryl Streep, carried the story of Lindy's wrongful conviction across oceans. What went wrong? Convictions of the innocent usually result from inaccurate eyewitness testimony (generally the least reliable evidence in a trial because of biases and the tricks of memory), but Lindy Chamberlain was convicted by flawed forensic evidence and by investigators and prosecutors unwilling to reconsider their assumptions in the face of contradictory evidence. The trial of Lindy Chamberlain, and her husband Michael, is a cautionary tale that everyone who practices forensic science should carefully consider.

Publication Date

2007

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