Jury begins deliberations in trial of man (24) accused of murdering taxi driver
A jury has begun considering their verdict in the trial of a 24-year-old who admits stabbing but denies murdering a taxi-driver following a row over alleged illegal dumping.
Joseph Hillen of Glendesha Road, Forkhill, Co Armagh has pleaded not guilty to the murder of Martin Mulligan (53) at Carnmore, Balriggan, Dundalk, Co Louth on September 28, 2015. While he accepts he inflicted the fatal knife wounds, Mr Hillen told gardai that he did it to protect himself.
Justice Eileen Creedon told the nine men and three women there are three possible verdicts open to them: guilty of murder, not guilty of murder but guilty of manslaughter, or not guilty. To be guilty of murder, she said, the jury must be satisfied beyond reasonable doubt that the accused intended to kill or cause serious injury when he stabbed the deceased and that he was not acting in self defence.
If the jury believes that he could have been acting in self defence and that he used reasonable force in doing so, they should acquit, she said. Manslaughter arises if he believed he was acting in self defence but the jury finds that the force he used was not reasonable.
During six days of evidence the jury heard that Mr Hillen gave voluntary statements to gardai in July of this year in which he said he was driving by a friend's property in the early hours when he saw what he believed to be a man illegally dumping rubbish. A row ensued and according to Mr Hillen's statement Mr Mulligan pulled out a knife.
In the struggle, Mr Hillen said, he "flipped the knife" and while Mr Mulligan was punching him in the back of the head and Mr Hillen was on his knees he "jabbed out" twice in a backhanded motion, causing the two fatal injuries to the abdomen and leg. Acting State Pathologist Dr Michael Curtis told the trial that both stab wounds had severed major arteries and either one would have caused death within minutes.
The prosecution case is that Mr Hillen intended to kill or cause serious injury to the deceased and that he was not acting in self defence. Prosecution counsel Patrick Treacy SC told the jury that Mr Hillen's claim of self defence is not credible and asked them to consider the evidence that Mr Hillen lied to gardai in his initial statements in 2016.
Defence counsel Brendan Grehan SC said his client's version of events is the only one available and is backed up by the evidence. He pointed out that Dr Curtis agreed that the "unusual" location of the injuries - low down on the body - would be explained by the description given by the accused of jabbing out while down on his knees.
He also reminded the jury that witnesses in the trial had described the deceased as a "formidable" man who would not back down in a confrontation.
The jury will return to the Central Criminal Court tomorrow to continue their deliberations.