Galloping to success

21 November 2014

Fraser King

Riding high: Fraser King, winner of the Forest Gate Trophy, barrister and Waikato University doctoral student, with his horse Nadal.

Waikato University PhD student Fraser King put work on hold recently to participate in one of New Zealand's biggest eventing championships – the Eventing Canterbury One Day Championship - and he won.

"Surprise package"

Commentators called Fraser a "surprise package" as he came from behind on his horse Nadal KSNZ, a former race horse, to produce a perfect cross country effort. Before that Fraser had been sixth after the dressage and fourth after a clear show jumping round, all enough for him to win the coveted Forest Gate Trophy.

Naturally he was rapt to win his first senior national title.  "I knew my horse had a lot of ability, but it's immensely satisfying to see him realise that potential," he says. Even more pleasing was to win in such a competitive field, given that the event doubled as a key selection event for next year's Oceania Championships.

In-depth research into juries

Fraser is a Cambridge barrister who is completing a PhD Waikato University tackling the philosophical side of jury decision-making, looking in-depth at how juries arrive at their verdicts.

For his doctorate he's interviewed judges and individual jurors from a number of trials, mostly violent and other criminal trials such as serious fraud, to determine their reasoning behind decisions in the verdict process. He's completed the first phase of his study and is now writing up his thesis.

"My aim for this research is to contribute to the present review of jury trials in New Zealand," he says. "I think we will be seeing some changes to the jury system in the near future, particularly in respect of the instructions that jurors are given during trials and before the jury retires to deliberate their verdict."

There is a wider Australasian study being run by Monash and Wellington's Victoria University reviewing the jury system in New Zealand and Australia, which Fraser's research can contribute to.

Important and innovative contributions to theory and practice

One of his PhD supervisors, philosopher Dr Tracey Bowell from Waikato's Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences says that Fraser's project has the potential to make important and innovative contributions to both theory and practice.

 "Juries are selected from our society, which means nearly all of us could be called upon in the near future to determine the verdict of a serious crime," says Fraser.

"It follows that an analysis as to 'how juries think' can lead to valuable information for law-makers, judges and counsel in educating and guiding jurors throughout the trial process.  I'm also interested in the impact of social media, for example whether jurors comply with judicial directions not to seek further information on the law or defendant via blogs, Facebook or Twitter."

Fraser says he wouldn't be able to achieve all that he does without having fantastic support from family, friends, work colleagues and his university supervisors. "These people allow me flexibility and provide the necessary guidance in constantly seeking quality and improvement in all areas of my life."