Kerry murder trial: Michael Ferris found not guilty of murder, convicted of manslaughter

Michael Ferris (blue shirt, no tie) who appeared at Tralee District Court in May 2017. Anthony O'Mahony (inset) Photo: Mark Condren
Michael Ferris (blue shirt, no tie) who appeared at Tralee District Court in May 2017. Anthony O'Mahony (inset) Photo: Mark Condren

Anne Lucey

A jury in the Central Criminal court, sitting in Tralee, has found Michael Ferris not guilty of murder, but guilty of the manslaughter of John Anthony O'Mahony today.

The jury in the trial of north Kerry farmer Michael Ferris at the Central Criminal Court in Tralee returned a verdict of “not guilty of murder, but guilty of manslaughter".

The seven men and five women had been deliberating for four hours 31 minutes. Ten minutes earlier had been told they could bring in a majority verdict.

The decision was reached by a majority of 10 to two.

Thanking them, Ms Justice Carmel Stewart said it had not been an easy trial and they could be excused from jury duty for 10 years.

Michael Ferris, a dairy farmer, and single man, aged 63, of Rattoo had been charged with murder and had pleaded not guilty to murder of John Anthony O’Mahony (73), a bachelor tillage farmer of Ardoughter, Ballyduff at Rattoo at around 8 am on the morning of April 4, 2017.

The prosecution had argued the killing had been deliberate and intentional and it was murder.

However, the defence had argued there had been accumulated provocation because of the behaviour of the dead man, John Anthony O’Mahony and the fair verdict and the just verdict would be manslaughter.

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Brendan Grehan SC had said in his closing speech said he made no apology for speaking ill of the dead, which was not a normal thing to do. But it was necessary to show why Michael Ferris “a good man who did a bad thing".

Michael Ferris, a man who had no previous convictions and for whom everyone had a good word, was obliging and kind had not become a murderer overnight, Mr Grehan said.

Anthony O'Mahony

The family of Anthony O’Mahony man shook their heads and cried as the not guilty of murder verdict was read out.

Ms Justice Stewart said she wanted to express her sympathy to Mr O’Mahony’s relatives on his death.

The court heard a description of the deceased bachelor farmer.

He had bought the 100 acres in Rattoo, with his brother Seamus, in the 1980s. In fact he had in all 200 acres between Rattoo, Aroughter and Causeway.

He managed everything about the tillage – spraying, planting, and protecting, from pigeons and crows with a crowbanger. Previously he had had glass houses on the Rattoo lands.

He was “passionate about his crops” his nephew James O’Mahony told the trial .

A picture of a man of routine also emerged.

Every morning on the button he would be in Rattoo from April onwards, leaving his home at 8.45am, switching on the banger during crop planting time and again before harvest, his nephew said. There were two bangers in Rattoo but only one worked and it was used between the three farms, James said.

The crow bangers had to be kept locked up as – 15 years back one was stolen and it was recovered by gardai from the Ferris’ shed.

Anthony’s sister Angela Houlihan from Clashmealkon Causeway told how her brother was a man of strict routine; he would leave home at the same time each morning and she brought him his lunch back in Ardoughter every day for 20 years and he would smoke a cigarette, read the Irish Indpendent and go for a rest before heading back to Rattoo.

Defence counsel Brendan Grehan had put forward a defence of what the judge, in her charge to the jury, described as “cumulative provocation.”

The facts in the case had been accepted but the issue had been not what had happened by why it had happened, Mr Grehan argued from the outset.

Sentencing will be at the Central Criminal Court in Dublin on November 26.

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