Tuesday 12 November 2019

Judge urges jury to keep an open mind on the arguments

Edel Kennedy

The jury in the Eamonn Lillis murder trial will not be given copies of statements made by two key witnesses to gardai as they sit down to consider their verdict today.

Retiring for less than half an hour after Mr Justice Barry White completed his summing up, the jury returned to Court 19 seeking a total of seven items.

They had retired after lunch to determine a verdict in the murder trial of the 52-year-old. He has denied murdering his wife Celine Cawley at their Howth home on December 15, 2008.

Yesterday afternoon, the six men and six women on the jury sought: to rehear the 999 call; the bag found in the attic containing bloodied clothes; a copy of the report by Deputy State Pathologist Dr Michael Curtis; clothes in the wardrobe in the couple's home; a copy of Eamonn Lillis's evidence before the court; a copy of Jean Treacy's statement to the gardai; and a copy of the couple's daughter's statement to the gardai.

Mr Justice Barry White took a note of their requests and said he would seek the facility to play the 999 call. But he said the garda statements of Ms Treacy and the couple's daughter will not be made available to the jury.

He said he cannot give a copy of Mr Lillis's evidence or Dr Curtis's report to the jury, but said he can read them before the court.

The judge then sent the jury home for the night and said they would have the items ready for the jury this morning.

Earlier yesterday, after completing his summary of the evidence at the Central Criminal Court, the judge said the jury must take account of the fact that Mr Lillis did not use the defence of provocation or self-defence in his evidence.

He told the jury they had the option of returning a verdict of guilty of murder, manslaughter or absolute acquittal.

He said the prosecution's case stated that the opportunity presented itself to Mr Lillis that morning and that he took it, and went on to "methodically" change his clothes and hide them before calling the emergency services.

"The defence says the State's case is implausible and it is ludicrous to suspect that Mr Lillis would kill his wife in full view of anyone passing the pathway at the bottom of their garden," the judge said.


He said that while the defence accepted that Mr Lillis lied, he did so because he felt "trapped".

"If you accept it (Mr Lillis's story) as being true, or possibly true, he is entitled to be acquitted," said the judge.

However, he reminded the jury the accused had not at any stage suggested provocation.

"Mr Lillis, in his account to you, does not in any way suggest provocation, that he was so consumed by passion by the abuse hurled at him by his wife . . . that he was no longer the master of his mind," he said.

Mr Lillis "only went so far as to say he was very angry" and, the judge said, there was a "world of difference" between being angry and not knowing what you were doing.

He pointed out that neither was a case made for self-defence.

"He (Mr Lillis) makes the case that he didn't inflict the injuries (on Ms Cawley) and wasn't conscious of these injuries being serious."

He added that while gross negligence could result in a manslaughter verdict, Mr Lillis did not make this case.

"The question for you ladies and gentlemen is that Mr Lillis doesn't make this particular case, so should you make it for him?" he asked.

"Should you consider the issue of provocation, self-defence and gross negligence? A decision in this matter is entirely up to you, and you alone."

The jury retired and were brought back to the court a short time later for the judge to clarify some further matters which were raised by the defence.


He told them he did "not carry a sword for the prosecution nor a shield for the prosecution".

"I hope you don't think my charge was directing you to find a particular verdict because it was not," he said. "I can't deal with every item said."

When questioned by the jury, Mr Justice White confirmed they must return a unanimous verdict.

He urged them not to go into the jury room with a closed mind, but to be prepared to be swayed by the arguments.

Irish Independent

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