Coroner Turns Over Diana Case To Jury

Princess Diana smiles at the United Cerebral Palsy's annual dinner at the New York Hilton on Monday evening, Dec. 11, 1995. Diana is to be honored with United Cerebral Palsy's Humanitarian Award. AP

The coroner leading an inquest into the death of Princess Diana on Wednesday sent the jury out to consider its verdict on how she and her boyfriend, Dodi Fayed, died in a Paris car crash more than a decade ago.

Lord Justice Scott Baker told the jury to take as long as they need to weigh the evidence from the six-month long inquest into how Diana and Fayed died in the car accident in a Paris tunnel while being trailed by photographers on Aug. 31, 1997.

More than 240 witnesses have given evidence at the inquest, reports CBS News correspondent Sheila MacVicar, and the entire process has cost millions of dollars.

Some of the witnesses were Diana's close friends, Prince Philip's private secretary, a former head of the Secret Intelligence Service and Diana's former butler, Paul Burrell.

"There is no pressure of time," Baker told jurors. "Take as long as is necessary."

Among the last questions he put to the jury was whether Diana and Fayed would have survived had they worn their seat belts and whether Diana would have lived had she been taken to the hospital more quickly.

Photos: Diana's Ill-Fated Journey
He told the jury that the conspiracy theory promoted by Dodi's father, Mohamed Al Fayed - that the couple were killed in a secret-service plot masterminded by Prince Philip - "has been minutely examined and shown to be without any substance."

He said the jury could consider evidence that the deaths were the result of gross negligence by driver Henri Paul, the paparazzi who pursued the couple, or both.

Baker had previously told the jury that to reach a verdict of unlawful killing they would have to find evidence of recklessness amounting to manslaughter. If not, he said, they should consider whether the crash was simply an accident.

Baker told jurors on Monday that there is no shred of evidence to implicate the queen's husband, the secret intelligence service or any other government agency in their deaths.

Photos: The Paparazzi Photos
Jurors will also consider whether the paparazzi trailing the couple in a high speed chase are also guilty of unlawful killing.

The last resort for a verdict was an open verdict which could include the possibility of a staged accident.

The inquest began in Oct. 2 after a decade of British and French police investigations and French court proceedings. Both investigations concluded the deaths were accidental.

MacVicar reports under U.K. law, an official inquest must be conducted whenever a British citizen dies abroad, so this process had to take place. She says it has only taken so long because of the many side investigations and conspiracy theories which have mired the case since the car crash.
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