News Courts

Monday 1 May 2017

Brother found not guilty of farmer's murder

Edel Kennedy

ONE of the two brothers accused of murdering a farmer in a dispute over a heifer has been acquitted.

Jason Byrne (33) walked free from the Central Criminal Court yesterday evening after a unanimous not guilty verdict.

He and his brother, Daniel-Joseph Byrne, both of of Hammer Lane, Borness, Mountmellick, had denied murdering Edward Dempsey in 2007.

The jury retired last night without coming to a verdict on the charge against Daniel-Joseph (DJ).

Earlier, the jury had sought clarification from the judge on a number of issues -- and afterwards it took them just eight minutes to acquit Jason.

"Eddie" Dempsey (49), a cattle farmer on the Laois/Offaly border, died in Portlaoise hospital on October 11, 2007, 10 months after a row at the Byrnes' farmyard.

The prosecution argued that the farmer's ultimate cause of death was the blow to the head struck by DJ Byrne on December 18, 2006, during the row. DJ admitted to hitting Mr Dempsey across the head with a wooden shovel handle.

Jason, however, maintained that although he was present in the yard, he played no part in the incident and never struck the farmer.

He stood side by side with his brother yesterday as the verdict was read out. The two brothers gave no reaction when Jason was cleared of murder.

His fiancee of seven years, Michelle Murphy, who gave evidence in the trial, bowed her head silently, while seated behind her, Mr Dempsey's widow, Aileen Dempsey, stared straight ahead.

Defence

Jason Byrne -- who left the court shortly after his brother -- did not comment on the verdict.

The jury had returned to the court just prior to lunch and had sought clarification on a number of issues, including trespass.

However, Mr Justice Patrick McCarthy told them the case was "not about trespass" but rather about "intention, defence, and common purpose".

During the four-week trial, DJ Byrne gave evidence that he was "purely defending" himself when he struck Eddie Dempsey.

DJ Byrne described how the neighbouring farmer arrived at his yard with his brother, John Dempsey, to get back a heifer that had strayed on to his land.

DJ Byrne said he repeatedly told the farmer not to come on to his property. He said Mr Dempsey then pushed the gate in on top of him, knocking him backwards and into Jason, who was also in the yard.

Towering

DJ Byrne said Mr Dempsey shouted at them that they were "bastards" and "scum", and was towering over him with his fists closed when he hit him with a shovel handle.

Jason Byrne, who also took gave evidence during the trial, said he played no part in the row, nor did he witness anything, because he was knocked to the side by DJ. He said it was not true that he had struck the farmer across the legs with the handle of a brush.

The prosecution had argued that the brothers acted in joint enterprise and were in a concerted agreement to lure the farmer into the yard, isolate him and give him a beating.

The jury is due to resume deliberations in the case of DJ Byrne today.

Irish Independent

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