Jury to begin deliberation in trial of two youths accused of murdering German student
The jury is due to begin its deliberations in the trial of two Dublin youths charged with murdering a German student and injuring another in the city.
Thomas Heinrich (22) and Robert Rinker (23) were stabbed on St Anthony’s Road in Rialto on December 1, 2012. Mr Rinker, who is now 25, survived but Mr Heinrich died.
Wesley Kelly (20) of St Anthony’s Road has pleaded not guilty at the Central Criminal Court to murdering Mr Heinrich and to assault causing harm to Mr Rinker.
A 17-year-old, who cannot be named because of his age, also denies both charges.
It is the State’s case that both accused had gone looking for a fight and were being prosecuted on the basis of joint enterprise.
In his address to the jury today Mr Justice Barry White said that there were two accused persons and four separate trials taking place at the one time for public convenience but that each count should be treated separately.
He told the nine men and three women that even if they rejected the men’s accounts it still remained for the prosecution to satisfy them on the remainder of the evidence that they are guilty.
The judge told the jury that the State alleges that there was a joint enterprise or common design between the accused.
“In this case the State contends that there was a joint enterprise between these two men,” said the judge.
Mr Justice White said that in the case of joint enterprise, each is responsible for the actions of the other.
“It is on that basis that the State asks you to convict both men,” said the judge.
But Mr Justice White said that there could be a withdrawal from a joint enterprise by one of the parties.
“A joint enterprise can be terminated by one or other of the persons,” he said.
Mr Justice White told the jury that the legal defence of self-defence was being raised in the trial and that, if attacked, a person has a right to fight back.
“If you accept that these two men were acting in self-defence then that’s the end of the prosecution’s case,” he said.
The judge told the jury the law provides that in relation to murder there are different considerations to be given to the defence of self-defence.
One could amount to an acquittal and one can reduce murder to the level of manslaughter, he said.
If the person who killed used more force than necessary but no more force than the accused thought necessary, then it will be manslaughter, the judge told them. Mr Justice White said that was particularly relevant to the 17-year-old accused.
He told the jury members they must look to the amount of force that was used.
“Was it force that was reasonably necessary in the circumstances?” he asked.
The judge said that if the jury members come to the view that the accused used no more force than was reasonably necessary, that entitles him to an outright acquittal.
The judge said that if he used more force than was necessary and more than he honestly believed that was necessary then it is murder.
“It is up to the State to negatise the issue of self-defence,” said the judge.
He told the members of the jury that when they considered the allegations of causing serious harm to Mr Rinker, they had to have a subjective point of view and would need to look at the state of mind of Mr Kelly at the time.
In her closing speech yesterday Tara Burns SC, prosecuting, said that the “elephant in the room” was that Mr Rinker brought two knives to the scene and Mr Heinrich brought one.
“It was a foolish and ill-judged move by both men. However that doesn’t mean that those two men deserved what they got,” she said.
She told the jury Mr Heinrich sustained three stab wounds. She said Robert Rinker had four stab wounds and three other wounds.
“In no way can that amount to self-defence,” Ms Burns told the jury.
Mr Sean Gillane SC defending the 17-year-old said that the case was not a competition between types of people.
“This case can’t be a competition or contest between different kinds of people,” he said.
Mr Gillane said that the law in relation to self-defence did allow for situations of panic and confusion.
“It’s obvious on this night that a thousand foolish moments were crammed into 10 or 15 seconds,” he said.
He said his client never intended to kill Mr Heinrich and told gardai he stuck out his knife and the German ran at it.
Ms Aileen Donnelly SC defending Mr Kelly told the jury in her closing speech that if he was acting in self-defence he was entitled to an acquittal.
“At most we have a group of young men brandishing knives out of some sort of bravado,” said Ms Donnelly.
She said Mr Kelly wanted to leave before the fatal wound was inflicted on Mr Heinrich and that his co-accused’s garda interviews supported this.
Ms Donnelly said that the prosecution accepted the co-accused was “the main perpetrator” and that her client was not part of a joint enterprise.
The jury is expected to begin its deliberations this afternoon.