August 19, 2016

Discussion to focus on Australian murder case

by Pete Rosenbery

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- A high-profile case of an Australian woman wrongly convicted of the death of her daughter will be discussed at the SIU School of Law next week. 

John Bryson, a former Australian solicitor and barrister who wrote the internationally acclaimed, “Evil Angels,” published as “A Cry in the Dark” in the United States, will provide insights during a discussion from 12:15 to 1:30 p.m., Tuesday, Aug. 23, in Southern Illinois University Carbondale’s Hiram H. Lesar Law Building Courtroom. The event is open to the public. Lunch will be provided with an RSVP, which is available at

Media Advisory

Reporters, photographers and news crews are welcome to cover the discussion. John Bryson will be available for interviews. To arrange an interview, contact Alicia Ruiz, the law school’s director of communication and outreach, at 618/453-8700.

Bryson’s book chronicles the trials of Lindy Chamberlain-Creighton, whose nine-week old daughter, Azaria, was taken by a dingo from the family campsite in August 1980.  An initial inquest determined the child died by a wild dog or dingo attack, but a second inquest led to charges against Chamberlain-Creighton and her then husband, Michael. In October 1982, Chamberlain-Creighton was convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to life in prison while Michael Chamberlain was convicted of being an accessory after the fact and received an 18-month suspended sentence. Bryson’s book, and the discovery of the child’s jacket during an unrelated search for a fallen climber, helped secure Chamberlain-Creighton’s release in 1986. It was another 26 years before a coroner declared that Azaria died as a result of being taken by a dingo. 

Bryson’s book, published in 1985, was released as a 1988 film, “A Cry in the Dark,” starring Meryl Streep and Sam Neill. 

There will also be a discussion of the influence of the media in reporting on criminal investigations.

The media can “improperly influence and unjustly influence outcomes,” Lucian E. Dervan, law school associate professor, said. Erica Nichols Cook, an adjunct professor and supervisor of the law school’s Innocence Project Externship, will discuss how the media can contribute to both convictions and exonerations, the media’s influence into investigations in the United States, and the Innocence Project. 

Dervan hopes the audience will gain a greater appreciation of the dangers of pre-judging cases and take a more critical look at the media’s role in the criminal justice system. 

“I hope the audience looks at this tragedy and realizes that criminal cases are not always as they appear,” he said. “The Lindy Chamberlain case is one in which an innocent woman was convicted of a crime not based on evidence, but, instead, based on rumors and speculation that proved to be false.”