David Harold Eastman is seeking at least $18 million in compensation from the ACT Government for his wrongful imprisonment, the ACT Supreme Court heard today.
Mr Eastman spent 19 years in prison for the 1989 murder of Australian Federal Police Assistant Commissioner Colin Winchester, before he was found not guilty of the murder in November 2018 after a retrial.
Mr Eastman is now suing the territory for damages for his wrongful imprisonment, with the Supreme Court hearing that Mr Eastman wanted a minimum of $18 million.
Reports indicate that ACT Solicitor-General Peter Garrisson SC told the court that the ACT Government had offered an “act of grace” payment to Mr Eastman because it had a “moral obligation” to compensate him.
The payment was offered on the condition Mr Eastman waived his legal rights and dropped his suit against the territory. The value of the act of grace payment has not been released.
Mr Eastman rejected the offer.
Instead, Mr Eastman’s lawyers have applied for compensation under the ACT Human Rights Act, which allows people to pursue payment for wrongful imprisonment.
However, Mr Garrisson argued Mr Eastman did not meet the requirements to receive compensation under the act, stating the act of grace offer was the only way to compensate him.
Mr Eastman has always maintained his innocence for the murder of Colin Winchester, who was shot with a Ruger .22 rifle fitted with a silencer as he got out of his car in a neighbour’s driveway in Deakin in 1989.
Mr Eastman was found guilty of the murder in 1995 and received a life sentence after a lengthy police investigation. After years of appeals, the 2014 inquiry found there had been a miscarriage of justice.
The Supreme Court quashed the conviction, released Eastman from prison after serving 19 years, and ordered a retrial. The new trial began on 18 June 2018, with the not-guilty verdict handed down on 22 November 2018.
On Tuesday (1 October), Mr Eastman told the court that he had been robbed of the opportunity to marry, be a father and have a career. He also said he had been the victim of violent attacks and taunts during his incarceration.