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Tuesday 25 July 2017

Murderer's call for jury 'explanation' dismissed

Garrett O'Brien
Garrett O'Brien

The Court of Appeal has upheld a murderer's conviction after branding his lawyers' call for the jury to explain its guilty verdict as a "recipe for enormous difficulty".

Garrett O'Brien (40), from Clover Hill in Bray, Co Wicklow, had pleaded not guilty to the murder of 27-year-old father-of-two Seamus O'Byrne at his home in Tymon North Park, Tallaght, in March 2009.

He was found guilty by a jury at the Central Criminal Court and was given the mandatory life sentence by Ms Justice Iseult O'Malley on November 6, 2012.

The three-judge Court of Appeal dismissed O'Brien's appeal yesterday, in which his lawyers argued their client's fair trial rights were breached because the jury did not provide an explanation for its verdict.

Mr Justice Alan Mahon said that, after a gunman had shot Mr O'Byrne four times outside his home, he ran off, leaving behind his gun, a Red Bull can and a mobile phone.

A Volkswagen Passat found near to the scene the following day had in it a live round of ammunition and a petrol can.

Evidence connecting O'Brien with the crime included the Red Bull can and mobile phone.

O'Brien's barrister, Feargal P Kavanagh, said the prosecution "rode two horses" by opening their case on the basis that it was a "joint enterprise" but ending up on the basis that O'Brien was the "triggerman".

Gopher

O'Brien did not know at this juncture whether he had been convicted of being a gunman or a "gopher".

Mr Kavanagh submitted that it was an inherent weakness in the procedure and O'Brien's "fair trial rights" were breached.

Mr Justice Mahon said it was "entirely novel" to suggest that a jury could be questioned as to how it reached its verdict.

He said O'Brien was charged with and tried for specific offences and clear verdicts were returned in respect of each.

"A requirement that a jury should, in effect, give reasons for, or explain its verdict, is impractical and a recipe for enormous difficulty," he said.

"The secrecy of the manner in which a jury conducts its deliberations has long been a hallmark of our criminal legal system."

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