'It began to gnaw at him, at first an inkling, then an obsession:
Farah Jama was truly innocent. Sonnet (Associate Crown Prosecutor) decided then that he didn't want to grant Jama a re-trial.
He wanted to deliver him an acquittal.'
In the style of literary non-fiction comes a compelling, true story that will appeal to mystery, crime and "CSI" aficionados and anyone interested in justice for all in the midst of cultural diversity.
0n 21st July 2008, 21-year-old Somali, Farah Jama was sentenced to six years behind bars for the rape of a middle-aged woman as she lay unconscious in a Melbourne nightclub.
Throughout the trial Jama had maintained his innocence against the accusations he committed such a predatory, heinous crime.
But the Prosecution had one 'rock solid' piece of evidence that nailed the accused--his DNA.
Nearly 18 months after Jama's incarceration, his conviction was overturned when a mother's profound faith in her son's innocence, a prosecutor's tenacious pursuit of truth and justice and a defence lawyer's belief in his client, brought forth revelations that overturned one of the worst miscarriages of justice in Victorian legal history.
When journalist and lawyer, Julie Szego, set out to explore how a travesty of such magnitude could occur, she assumed she could tell the tale with journalistic detachment, delivering judgement from on high.
Instead, she found an intriguing and confronting story about the heartache of migration and the trials of integration, cultural taboos and gender wars, and the unseen prejudice that casts its spell over even the most enlightened minds. Farah Jama's story made her question the wisdom of relying exclusively on DNA evidence as proof of guilt, and it challenged her long-held belief that the justice system was vacuum-sealed in reason.
About the Author
Julie Szego began her career as a lawyer before she switched to journalism. She spent 12 years at The Age newspaper where she held various roles, including social affairs reporter, senior writer, leader writer and fortnightly columnist. During her time at the paper, she wrote a number of highly-acclaimed pieces to mark the 60th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, investigated the cultural divide between the inner-city and the outer suburbs as part of an award-winning series on Melbourne, and wrote a profile of the Somali-Dutch-American feminist activist, Ayaan Hirsi Ali.
She wrote a monthly column for The Australian Jewish News for seven years, contributed to a book of essays on Australian Jewish culture and edited and interpreted her father's 2001 memoir, Two Prayers to One God. She currently teaches university courses in writing and journalism.
The Tainted Trial of Farah Jama is her first book.
"A fascinating account of what can go wrong if the presumption of innocence is just a catch-cry. This book shows how dangerous it is when DNA evidence is allowed to trump common sense. I did not know of this trial until I read the book: I could not wait to find out how it went so wrong. The DNA evidence made no sense; the verdict seemed irrational. The result was a terrible injustice. To everyone." - Julian Burnside AO QC, human rights and refugee advocate.
"High quality journalism may have fallen away in our newspapers, but Julie Szego demonstrates its enduring vitality in this story of a grievous injustice redressed. She reveals in painstaking detail not only the various factors that, together, resulted in Farah Jama's conviction for rape, but also the complexity of his Somali culture striving to assert itself on Australia's multi-cultural stage. This is a book that deserves a very long shelf-life." - Robert Hillman
Number Of Pages: 256
Published: 1st March 2014
Dimensions (cm): 23.4 x 15.4 x 38.5
Weight (kg): 0.39