British race murder trial jury urged not to bow to emotions

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Jurors in the high-profile murder case of a black teenager in Britain were warned Thursday not to bow to emotional pressure to deliver guilty verdicts.

The emotionally charged trial of two white men for the murder of Stephen Lawrence 18 years ago -- a crime which led to the police being branded "institutionally racist" in a public inquiry -- is drawing to a close.

A lawyer representing one of the two men accused of stabbing the black 18-year-old to death in south London in 1993, said Britain had changed radically since then.

Gary Dobson, 36, and David Norris, 35, deny taking part in the gang attack in which Lawrence was killed and their lawyers claim forensic evidence on clothing is the result of contamination due to poor storage.

The two men told the Old Bailey court in London that racist rants filmed by a hidden police camera in 1994 contained language that was typical in their circle of acquaintances at the time.

In one video, Norris threatens to kill black people, Pakistanis and policemen.

Stephen Batten, defending Norris, urged the four women and eight men of the jury to keep their objectivity.

He said the defendants had essentially undergone a prosecution outside court from the media since 1993.

Batten urged the jury not to convict the defendants on the basis that if they do not "racism will have won".

He said "conscience is nothing without objectivity" and described forensic evidence linking Norris to the murder as "waffle".

The lawyer acknowledged that Lawrence's death had been "an enormous help" in ridding Britain of racism.

"The country has come a long way since 1993," he added.

Dobson's parents have told the court in evidence that their son was at home at the time of the murder.

The inquiry by senior judge William Macpherson into the way that the original investigation was conducted by London's Metropolitan Police led to significant changes in the way murders involving black victims are handled.

The hard-hitting report by Macpherson, published in 1999, gave a damning assessment of the culture within the Metropolitan police and policing in general.

The London police force faced allegations of incompetence and racism, although two internal inquiries exonerated the force.

© 2011 AFP

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