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Lauren Dickason trial: This is what the jurors will have to decide

South African doctor, Lauren Dickason, 40, will hear her fate after jurors weigh up evidence presented in her murder trial. Picture: Supplied

South African doctor, Lauren Dickason, 40, will hear her fate after jurors weigh up evidence presented in her murder trial. Picture: Supplied

Published Aug 14, 2023


The 12 jurors, made up of eight women and four men, deliberating the outcome of the Lauren Dickason trial, the murder-accused South African woman, will likely come to one of five outcomes after reviewing evidence over the last month given before a High Court in Christchurch, New Zealand.

This week, the jurors heard from the presiding Judge, Justice Cameron Mander, who gave a summarised account of the defence and prosecution’s cases, New Zealand media reported.

The jury will either find Lauren guilty of murder; guilty of infanticide but not murder, guilty of murder but not criminally liable by reason of insanity, or guilty of infanticide but not criminally liable by reason of insanity.

If the 12 jurors do not come to an agreement or majority vote, it could also result in a hung jury. In this case, according to New Zealand law, there will be a new trial with a new panel of jurors.

Over the past four weeks, the jurors heard evidence from expert witnesses, three of whom testified for the defence and two for the prosecution.

The two prosecution witnesses, Dr Erik Monasterio and Dr Simone McLeavey, ruled that Lauren had recovered from post-partum depression by the time of the incident, and that it had "little" contribution to her fatal actions on the evening of September 16, 2021.

Lauren admitted to killing her daughters, Lainè, Maya, and Karla, but pleaded not guilty to murder charges, the NZ Herald reported.

Forensic teams at the Dickason home on Queen Street in Timaru, New Zealand a day after the murders. Picture: Screenshot/Reuters

The three defence witnesses, doctors Justin Barry-Walsh, Susan Hatters-Friedman, and Ghazi Metoui, ruled that Lauren was suffering from a highly depressive episode at the time of the incident.

The three psychiatrists concluded that Lauren did not fully recover from post-partum depression and that her mental state decayed in the days leading up to the murder.

During proceedings on Monday, Justice Mander told the jurors that they must pay careful attention to the weight they give to the testimony of each expert witness.

The consistencies and inconsistencies in the manner Lauren reported to each expert witness must also be taken into account, Justice Mander explained to jurors, Stuff.NZ reported.

"At the end of the day, this is trial by jury, not trial by expert," Justice Mander was quoted as saying.

With the focus of each expert witness on Lauren’s mental state and the defence focusing its case on the insanity argument, the jurors will have to agree that Lauren’s mind was disturbed the night of the incident if the final verdict of infanticide is to be reached.

"If the Crown fails to negate at least one of the elements of infanticide beyond a reasonable doubt, then, subject to the issue of insanity, your verdicts would have to be ones of infanticide and not murder," Justice Mander was quoted as saying.

If the jurors reach a verdict of infanticide, Lauren will not walk free. The jurors will also be able to decide whether or not and for how long Lauren must be detained at a secured mental health facility.