Saturday 20 July 2019

Jurors in Kenneth O'Brien trial must reach unanimous verdict

Kenneth O'Brien
Kenneth O'Brien
Andrew Phelan

Andrew Phelan

THE jury in the trial of Paul Wells for the killing of his friend Kenneth O’Brien have been given three verdict options; gulity of murder, guilty of manslaughter or an outright acquittal.

Mr Justice Paul McDermott said the 11 jurors must reach their verdict unanimously and sent them home for the weekend, to begin deliberations on Monday.

He said there were disturbing elements of the case in relation to the disposal of Mr O’Brien’s body but the “horror that might have been felt at what happened” should not determine the guilt or innocence of the accused.

Earlier, defence barrister Michael O’Higgins concluded his closing speech, saying the jurors should acquit Mr Wells if they conclude he acted “reasonably” in self defence when he shot Mr O’Brien.

“It would be wrong to convict Mr Wells because you think he’s despicable,” he said.

Mr Wells (50), of Barnamore Park, Finglas, has pleaded not guilty to murdering Mr O’Brien (33) at that address between January 15 and 16, 2016.

He has admitted that he shot him dead but said it happened when they struggled during a row after Mr O’Brien turned up at his home with a gun.

The accused claimed Mr O’Brien had wanted to have his partner Eimear Dunne murdered and Mr Wells refused to kill her.

As they grappled, he said, the gun fell to the ground, they both reached for it and he thought Mr O’Brien was going to “shoot me first.”

Mr Wells said he panicked, got the gun and shot Mr O’Brien in the back of the head. He then dismembered his body in the yard, cutting it into 10 pieces with a chainsaw.

He put Mr O’Brien’s torso in a suitcase and his head and limbs in shopping bags, which he threw into the Grand Canal in Co Kildare.

Mr Justice McDermott this afternoon continued delivering his charge to the jury, summarising the case and outlining the legal principles.

He told the jurors a homicide is not murder if it is committed in reasonable self defence.

He then explained the verdict options open to the jury.

He said if Mr Wells killed Mr O’Brien because he honestly believed that the level of force was necessary to defend himself, but in doing so he used a greater degree of force than a reasonable man would use, he may be guilty of an “error of judgment in a difficult situation.”

In that case, the defence of self defence reduced a verdict of murder to manslaughter, he said.

If, however, the jury found he used more force than he knew to be reasonably necessary in the circumstances, he was guilty of murder.

A full defence to the charge of murder was open if the jury found Mr Wells killed Mr O’Brien using such force as was in the circumstances reasonably necessary.

If there was a reasonable possibility of this that had not been excluded by the prosecution “then you simply acquit,” he said.

It was the prosecution’s burden to exclude the defence of self defence, he said.

The judge told the jury he would be addressing them briefly again on Monday morning, after which they would “promptly” begin deliberations.

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