Jury sent to deliberate in murder trial of Kerry farmer

Michael Ferris (blue shirt, no tie) who appeared at Tralee District Court in May 2017. Anthony O'Mahony (inset) Pic:Mark Condren
Michael Ferris (blue shirt, no tie) who appeared at Tralee District Court in May 2017. Anthony O'Mahony (inset) Pic:Mark Condren
Killed: Anthony O’Mahony, who suffered ‘catastrophic’ injuries on the day he died. Photo: Eye Focus LTD
Michael Ferris pictured at Tralee Court House. Photo By Domnick Walsh.

Anne Lucey

The jury has been sent out for deliberation in the trial of a north Kerry farmer for murder of a neighbouring landowner.

Ms Justice Carmel Stewart has told the five women and seven men in the trial in the Central Criminal Court sitting in Tralee  of 63-year-old Michael Ferris of Rattoo for the murder of John Anthony O’Mahony of Ardoughter at Rattoo, on April 4, 2017, they must be unanimous.

After an hour and six minutes of deliberation, the jury in the trial of Michael Ferris were told to return to continue their deliberations at 11 am on Friday in the trial of Michael Ferris (63) who denies murdering neighbouring 73-year-old tillage farmer John Anthony O'Mahony at Rattoo Ballyduff, 18 months ago.

Summing up the prosecution case, at the end of her address to the jujry, Ms Justice Carmel Stweart said it was the prosecution case that Mr Ferris parked his teleporter on the laneway, goes off and did a few jobs, he hears a horn hooting, gets back into his teleporter.

He said he drove into Mr O’Mahony’s Peugeot 508, the judge said. This had caused “catastrophic injuries”.

Crow Banger

The crow banger had been going on with 20 years. It wasn’t liked by other neighbours, but on that particular day, Mr Ferris "decided to put an end to it".

She said if they accepted the defence plea of provocation, because of past history in relation to the crow banger, the loss of self-control must be total and “cannot be tinged by calculation”.

“To justify provocation there must be a sudden, unforeseen onset of passion which for the moment totally deprived the accused of his self-control,” she said.

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The judge told them to voice their opinions in the jury room and speak up for themselves and play a full part in the proceedings in the jury room.

“How you come to your decision is entirely a matter for you,” Ms Justice Carmel Stewart said just before 3pm.

The issue paper asks the jury to decide guilty of murder or not guilty of murder by reason of manslaughter.

Closing Speeches

In closing speeches today, the defence said “the fair verdict, the just verdict” would be manslaughter, not murder.

Closing speeches began this morning in the trial of Michael Ferris, aged 63, of Rattoo, Ballyduff, Co Kerry, for the murder of John Anthony O’Mahony of Ardoughter, Ballyduff on the morning April 4, 2017 at Rattoo.

Mr Ferris has pleaded not guilty. The trial has been told it was all about a crow banger and defence counsel Brendan Grehan this morning said  the community in ancient mystical Rattoo was being oppressed by the deceased and living in fear of a totally unreasonable person.

Mr Grehan said he rejected the prosecution claim the killing was intentional, and deliberate.

There was provocation. There was an accumulation of different matters over the years, which led his client, a gentleman, a private person, a kind, helpful man to snap, Mr Grehan said.

“We are all capable of losing it or getting excited. With some of us, it builds up slowly,” Mr Grehan said.

The defence made “absolutely no apology” for what could be seen to be “character assassination” of the deceased. Normally, one did not speak ill of the dead, he said.

“All of this was done so you can appreciate where Mr Ferris was coming from," Mr Grehan said.

“The community there was living in fear of this man,” he said of the deceased.

By contrast, no-one had a bad word for Michael Ferris – they spoke of his decency, his neighbourliness, his helpfulness, his obliging nature.

He was a man that morning at the end of his tether, he said.

The defence was not asking the jury to condone what he did – what Michael Ferris did was a terrible thing and he accepted he unlawfully killed the accused. But this was manslaughter, not murder.

'A good man who did a bad thing'

“Michael Ferris was an is a good man who did a bad thing,” Brendan Grehan said.

The counsel spoke about the scene of the crime. Rattoo was the site on an ancient monastic settlement.

“One thousand years ago”, there was a hospital, and abbey, a church and a graveyard and one of the finest round towers you would see anywhere in the country, although he himself had not heard of it until this case.

The ancient site “stands as a monument to community. People lived close to each other and shared activites,” he said.

“And really that is wat you heard in this case – people living in community, baking scones and dropping down scones to two bachelor farmers who got their dinner brought up to them, Mr Grehan said referring to Mairéad Walsh to the Ferris brothers.

“Or they might drop up eggs,” he said of the Ferris’ to Ms Walsh.

However Mr Mahony and his crow banger amounted to oppression of the community.

The crow banger was highly intrusive in particular the repetitive nature of it going “boom boom” all day long.

“The neighbours just had to put up with it because this man had a sense of entitlement," Mr Grehan said.

Patrick McGrath for the prosecution told the jury the actions of Mr Ferris, the accused, were not consistent with a sudden loss of self-control, or acting in a fury.

He had been thinking about it for a number of days.

“What is remarkable is his behaviour afterwards, the absence of regret, the absence of remorse, the absence of shock," Mr McGrath said.

The counsel refereed extensively to the interviews with detectives in which Mr Ferris agreed he had set out that morning to kill Anthony Mahony and that he drove the forks in through the car window and asked if he had set out to kill him, the accused had said:

“Well if I didn’t kill him, I would have seriously injured him anyway.”

Michael Ferris had never suffered from mental health problems, he had not acted under a sudden loss of control, Mr McGrath also said.

He knew the consequences and all the evidence pointed to a rational mind and a decision making process., the prosecution counsel also said.

Whatever about Mr Mahony’s previous dealings with the law, or run ins with his neighbours, there was “an intentional, deliberate killing” on the morning of April 4, 2017.

“And that was murder,” Mr McGrath told the jury.

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