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Lawrence jurors warned over emotion

Jurors in the Stephen Lawrence murder trial have been warned not to bow under emotional pressure to bring back guilty verdicts.

A barrister representing one of the two men accused of stabbing the black teenager to death in a racist attack in south London in 1993 said Britain had changed since then.

Gary Dobson, 36, and David Norris, 35, both of south London, deny murder and claim forensic evidence on clothing is the result of contamination. They told the Old Bailey that racist rants secretly filmed by police in 1994 contained the type of language common amongst their circle at the time.

Stephen Batten, QC, for Norris, told the four women and eight men to keep their objectivity in the five-week case. He said the defendants had been undergoing a prosecution outside court from the media and well-meaning people since 1993.

Mr Batten added: "Racism has long since lost any shred of respect, even one might say, in football.

"The last 18 years since Stephen Lawrence's death has been an enormous help in getting rid of racism. The country has come a long way since 1993."

He asked the jurors if when they retire to reach verdicts they would feel "some extra weight of responsibility" than other juries.

He said when it was over, they should ask for a tour of the historic building. "It may be some compensation for having been through the rack here," he said.

Mr Batten said they should pay particular attention to a plaque put up to two Quaker jurors who were jailed in 1670 for not returning a verdict they were told to. That had led to the right of jurors to return verdicts in accordance to their consciences.

"They kept their oath and we encourage you to keep yours," he said.

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