He wants bail, partly because it is difficult preparing his defence while on remand in jail. He told the Supreme Court on Monday he had been refused access to the library in Port Phillip Prison and could not speak to defence witnesses because prisoners’ telephone calls were recorded.
“How can I be expected to prepare for my case?” he said during his bail application, representing himself.
“I just cannot believe that a person can get a fair trial before a jury with all these restrictions.”
Justice Paul Coghlan accepted it was difficult for a prisoner to prepare his own defence but said it was the accused man’s choice not to hire a lawyer. He urged Mr Cohrs to consider getting legal advice.
“You would be much better off being represented,” Justice Coghlan said.
“I have been doing this stuff for 50 years and I think a case as hard as these cases are make it terribly, terribly difficult for people to represent themselves, to the point of impossibility.”
Mr Cohrs said the failure of prison authorities to arrange for him to face court hearings had also caused great stress, to the point he had a heart attack.
His health concerns are among additional grounds for him seeking bail, along with the risk of contracting coronavirus in prison, the delay he faces before trial, his good character and because he needs to care for his wife. His trial won’t start until next year.
Prosecutors oppose bail because they say the case against Mr Cohrs is very strong, the charges very serious and that if released he would be a risk of offending and to the public.
Mr Cohrs told the court he hoped to win a civil case before his first murder trial, and that freeing up $2 million of his assets would allow him to hire the lawyers he wanted and grant him access to evidence that could be used in the criminal proceedings.
Mr Cohrs is yet to lodge a defence to the first murder charge but told the court he was under a lot of pressure from family members and was the subject of “mental torment”. He asked Justice Coghlan if the lines of mental impairment and the related automatism, and “defence of another” were available.
The judge replied they were but said, “I never say never but they don’t look likely in your case.”
Mr Cohrs said he only wanted to spend time with his immediate family if bailed.
“There is no way I am going jeopardise spending one more minute with my family. My main goal now is to secure the financial viability for my family. That’s my pledge to the court,” he said.
Justice Coghlan will rule next Monday.
Police allege Mr Cohrs murdered his brother in the NSW town of Rufus and drove about 100 kilometres to Red Cliffs, near Mildura, where he allegedly murdered his mother. Police say he then returned to NSW, where he was found with a self-inflicted gunshot wound. He was airlifted to hospital in Melbourne and later charged.
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Adam Cooper joined The Age in 2011 after a decade with AAP. Email or tweet Adam with your news tips.