Illiterate hunger striker John Dundon taken to hospital at start of Shane Geoghegan trial
The opening day of the trial of John Dundon for the murder of Garryowen rugby player Shane Geoghegan saw the accused man taken to hospital for a head injury after earlier informing the court he was illiterate in response to evidence that he had sacked his legal team and elected to represent himself.
A gaunt, wheelchair-bound Dundon appeared earlier this morning for arraignment at the non-jury Special Criminal Court, which heard the accused man had dismissed his legal representatives last week.
In June the court heard the accused man informed prison authorities on May 30 last that he was going on hunger and thirst strike.
However, Dundon did not appear for the scheduled opening of the murder trial this afternoon after evidence was heard he had cut his head after fainting in his cell and was being brought to hospital.
Assistant Chief Officer Peter Kelly told Mr Tom O’Connell SC, prosecuting, that at lunch time today the call system was activated in the cell where John Dundon and another man, Nathan Killeen (23), were being held.
The Portlaoise prison officer said Mr Killeen informed him John Dundon had fainted and cut his head.
Mr Kelly said that when he entered the cell he noticed John Dundon lying on the floor with a small cut on his head.
He told Mr O’Connell that he notified the chief prison officer, moved Mr Killeen to a secure area, assessed John Dundon’s breathing and put him in the correct position.
Mr Kelly said that Dundon was currently being assessed by paramedics from Dublin Fire Brigade and it was proposed to take him to hospital for further medical checks.
He told Mr O’Connell that there was no CCTV footage of the cell itself but there was CCTV coverage of an adjacent corridor.
Mr Kelly confirmed no other person other than Nathan Killeen had access to the cell at lunch time.
Prosecution counsel told the court that he proposed to call medical evidence tomorrow morning (Wednesday) that may assist in assessing what had occurred and whether the accused man had sought to frustrate the criminal process and harm himself.
Presiding judge Mr Justice Nicholas Kearns said the non-jury court would not make any assessment until the medical evidence was heard. He said the trial would be adjourned until tomorrow morning when medical evidence would be heard as to the nature of the injury and its causation.
Earlier today, barrister Martin O’Rourke told the court that Dundon had informed Madden & Finucane solicitors he was withdrawing his instructions from them and that he wished to “conduct proceedings” on his own behalf.
Asked by Mr Justice Kearns if he could confirm the accuracy of what was said, Dundon replied: “Yeah.”
Mr Justice Kearns told Dundon’s legal representatives that they were free to go, whereupon the former defence team sorted their papers and walked out of the courtroom.
However, after the murder charge was read to him by the court registrar, Dundon, who remained seated in his wheelchair, said: “I plead not guilty but it’s a different legal team I am looking for.”
Mr Justice Nicholas Kearns told Dundon he had confirmed that he wished to withdraw his instructions, did not wish to engage new legal team and wished to defend himself.
Told by Mr Justice Kearns that he had been asked only “a few moments ago” to confirm this, Dundon replied: “I thought you meant a new legal team.” The accused man added that he could not read or write.
“You have elected to do the case yourself and you will do the case yourself,” Mr Justice Kearns said.
He told the accused man that “every possible assistance” would be granted to him and that he would be given every opportunity to ask questions and would be furnished with a daily transcript of the trial hearings.
Mr O’Connell then confirmed that a Supreme Court order for the prosecution to identify all relevant evidence disclosed to the defence had been complied with. Last month Dundon lost a Supreme Court bid to have the trial deferred after his defence team received thousands of pages of investigative material one month before the trial was due to commence.
When Mr Justice Kearns said the trial would commence at two o’clock, John Dundon told the court: “I don’t know nothing about the law, I haven’t a clue, I thought I had a separate legal team, I left school at the age of nine.”
“You have sacked your legal team and confirmed that you want to represent yourself,” Mr Justice Kearns replied.
John Dundon, with a last address at Hyde Road, Limerick, is standing trial for the murder of 28-year-old Shane Geoghegan at Clonmore, Kilteragh, Dooradoyle, Limerick, on November 9th, 2008.
The case was brought before the non-jury Special Criminal Court in August last year as the Director of Public Prosecutions certified that the ordinary courts were inadequate to secure the administration of justice.
The trial is expected to last three to four weeks.