Second jury fails to agree if car-crush death was murder
Published 01/12/2011 | 05:00
THE State must decide whether to accept a young mother's manslaughter plea or try her for a third time on a murder charge for crushing a man with a car.
A jury yesterday failed to reach a verdict in the murder trial of Claire Nolan (25), who has admitted the manslaughter of Michael Duffy (66).
The prosecution did not accept her plea and she went on trial for murder at the Central Criminal Court last week.
It was the second time that Ms Nolan had faced trial on a murder charge -- and once again a jury failed to reach a verdict.
Ms Nolan, of Sheephill Green, Blanchardstown, Dublin, drove into father-of-four Michael Duffy (66) and crushed him against his son's house in Wellview Grove, Blanchardstown, on January 26, 2008.
The court heard she told gardai she meant to knock down the man's son, Francis Duffy.
Ms Nolan, who was 21 at the time, had been drinking wine and taking drugs with friends in the house next door to Francis Duffy's. She said she was told that he was tampering with her car and she confronted him.
Witnesses said they saw her beat him over the head with a baseball bat. Ms Nolan said she did not recall this but remembered breaking a branch off a tree. She said that Francis Duffy injured her hand with a knife.
Ms Nolan got into her car in the next driveway, reversed out, ramming Michael Duffy's taxi across the road into a pillar.
She then crashed through Francis Duffy's gates and drove into his driveway, crushing his father against the house.
She said she was trying to knock down Francis Duffy when his father jumped in her way.
"I did intend on knocking him down because he was after giving me the digs, the f***ing w**ker," she said. "The man just jumped out of nowhere. He wasn't even in the fight.
"I couldn't brake. I couldn't stop the car. I squashed the man against the wall."
Ms Nolan then left in her car, which was later found on fire.
She said she could not control her temper when drunk but didn't mean to cause serious injury to anybody.
The court heard that Mr Duffy's spine was broken in two and he died of crush injuries to his chest. He had massive internal trauma and the heart was crushed.
State Pathologist Professor Marie Cassidy said injuries to his knees were typical of bumper impact and it was possible that he was upright when struck by the vehicle.
"While on the ground, his chest could have been crushed by the front of the vehicle," she added.
The jury of seven men and five women had deliberated for almost five hours when they returned to say they could not reach agreement.
Mr Justice Patrick McCarthy told them they could reach a majority verdict of 11 to one, or 10 to two -- but the forewoman replied that this would not be possible, adding: "I think we've exhausted every avenue."
The judge discharged them and remanded Ms Nolan on continuing bail until December 19.
The State will decide whether to accept her manslaughter plea or try her for a third time.