Thursday 23 March 2017

Nicola Anderson: Put yourself in accused man's shoes, urges judge

Nicola AndersonNicola Anderson

In their customary seats at the back of the courtroom, Jim Cawley, his son Chris and daughter Susanna exchanged glances of apprehension. The day of reckoning had almost arrived, to which they have probably both been looking forward to and, in equal measure, dreading.

Seated beside the family, offering words of comfort, were several friends keeping a watchful eye on their welfare at this difficult time.

Across the room sat Ms Cawley's husband Eamonn Lillis, his face tense and lips pursed as Mary Ellen Ring, for the prosecution, began her closing speech, telling the jury that they were the sole judges of the facts.

Mr Lillis listened intently, compulsively clasping and unclasping his hands as Ms Ring pointed out that "remorse doesn't undo an intention".

The Cawley family bowed their heads as Ms Ring took them again through the account of that morning given by Mr Lillis.

"The opportunity presented itself on December 15," Ms Ring put it to the jury.

"Mr Lillis took that opportunity, took up that brick, hit Celine Cawley on three occasions with moderate force that caused the injuries you heard about.

"Looking at the stage where we say he was holding a brick in his hands -- that's the intention. Not where he dials 999, but with the brick in his hand applying moderate force," she said.

There was a brief pause and silence in court as Brendan Grehan, for the defence, took to his feet to make the argument to the contrary in his own closing speech.

"I'm asking you to acquit him," he began. He said the jury needed to look coldly and clinically at the evidence to see whether the case really stands up to any scrutiny.

"This was not a case where somebody's head was battered in with a brick," he said.

There was no fracture and Ms Cawley may have fallen unconscious in circumstances where her "enlarged heart was already working at capacity" and only moderate force had been applied.

"If you're going to kill someone I suggest to you that you would do it properly," Mr Grehan pointed out.

He talked about Mr Lillis's self-confessed affair with Jean Treacy.

"Perhaps the strongest marriage that was totally fulfilled could be rocked by a beautiful young woman who could roll back the years in terms of where your life is at," the barrister put it tentatively to the jury.

"Who wouldn't be flattered if your hand was placed on the pulse of a woman you'd caused to race?" he asked.

They were not there to judge Mr Lillis's moral fibre. He had "lived 50 years to the good", he was someone who did not have a reputation as a nasty person or ever capable of violence.

"I'd ask you not to convict him," Mr Grehan finished neatly, on the dot of lunchtime.

Mr Lillis smoothed an eyebrow as Mr Justice Barry White began his charge in the afternoon, urging the jury to put themselves in the shoes of the accused man -- if they convicted him, would they feel they had been done an injustice?

As he took them through the evidence, the colour rose in the defendant's face as the judge reminded the jury how Mr Lillis had nominated and named a suspect who was the "intruder" in their home that day. He had pointed the finger at an innocent man. As one of the guards put it, the burglar was a "cock-and-bull story", the judge stoutly observed.

It was a matter for the jury how to construe the notes found in Mr Lillis's home -- and, in particular, the final line: "You are running out of time," he said.

Mr Lillis had said he did have an affair and he described it as a "mid-life crisis", said the judge.

It was a matter for the jury to decide if the relationship was a fling or if it was "deeper than that".

The Cawley family looked at one another with a depth of suffering at the news that the judge's charge was to continue into the next day. Soon, but not yet.

Irish Independent

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