he last 90 minutes of dramatic courtroom theatre before Saul Holt QC’s client Gable Tostee learned his fate was something the veteran lawyer says he has never experienced before – and may never experience again.
The verdict was delayed as a juror was investigated for outing herself as sitting on Instagram during the case, and Holt’s team called for a mistrial.
Then, the Instagram revelation was leaked to the public by a live-tweeting mystery blonde, the verdict came in acquitting his client, and Justice John Byrne revealed to the surprised jury one among their number had almost derailed the whole trial.
Then, as a media scrum awaited Tostee, top cops at court attempted to nab Kiwi reporter Ruth Wynn-Williams, from TVNZ, taking her for the offending blonde tweeter, in a case of mistaken identity.
Then there was the media circus awaiting his client and Kiwi Warriena Wright’s grieving family.
Tostee trailed off from the the Supreme Court of Queensland, silently towering above the crowd of question-shouting, microphone-thrusting, photo-snapping crews as members of the public hurled insults from the sidelines.
“It was a pretty interesting time that hour and a half,” the former Palmerston North prosecutor said on Friday. “I’ve never experienced anything like it. I may never experience anything like it again.”
Holt believed the result – full acquittal of murder and manslaughter charges – clearing his client of culpability in Wright’s August 8, 2014, balcony fall death, showed the jury had been able to do its job.
“There’s an increasing amount of public and media opinion and pressure about criminal cases and you’ve just got to make sure the jury and the process is still there and not contaminated by whatever happens.”
It truly was a trial of the 21st century, Holt agreed.
“In every sense – from the fact that the evening started on Tinder to the fact that the trial ended up in argument about Instagram, it kind of had everything in between.
“I think it’s just a reality of modern, high-profile criminal trials.
“I think there’s no point trying to rail against it, we’ve just got to work out the best ways of dealing with it and managing it.”
Holt said he had given up trying to predict jury behaviour a decade ago, and even he did not know what to expect the jury would decide.
“No one was suggesting that he had thrown her off the balcony or that he had wanted her to die, or anything, it was just this really difficult question of whether you’re responsible for someone else’s death even though you didn’t intend it or want it.”
After Tostee was acquitted they spent time in Holt’s solicitor’s offices debriefing and waiting for the media scrum to disperse, then Tostee took a train back to his parents’ place on the Gold Coast: “And I haven’t spoken to him since.”
On Friday, Australian media poured forth fresh exposes on Tostee. Paparazzi lurked outside his parents’ home. Holt would not comment on reports Tostee had Asperger’s syndrome.
So what did the so-called “Gold Coast playboy” think of the press?
“I’m not going to comment on what he privately thought about the media – the media inquisition he’s been [through] over the past two years has not been pleasant.
“I think him not talking at the moment is a function of the need to just process what’s happened and realise that he now has a chance to get on with the rest of his life.”
There was no such return to normality for Wright’s family – bereaved and reeling from the release of the secret recordings Tostee made, that became the central motif of the trial.
Her family also had to see her character smeared in the press as some questioned her morals in meeting Tostee, a stranger, via Tinder for sex.
“The commentary there has been on her morality more generally, in my view, well – that had no place in the trial, and it no place in the commentary,” Holt said. “It’s nobody’s business.”
As for the spotlight on Tostee?
“It’ll be a very long and hard process no doubt. He’ll be guarded for the rest of his life, but at least he now knows it’s over and he can get on with the help of his mum and his dad and regain some normality after all this – time is a great healer.”
Australian television networks have a history of paying lucrative sums for exclusive tell-all interviews. Tostee’s lips were sealed when he walked out of court a free man on Thursday.
So could Holt reveal whether his client was being courted for any television media-exclusives?
“I have no idea, and if I did I wouldn’t be able to comment.”