Jury told to consider duress and reasonable excuse in trial of woman charged with staging house-mate's suicide
A jury has been told to consider the defences of duress and reasonable excuse in the trial of a mother of one charged with impeding her boyfriend’s apprehension by staging the suicide of the woman he’d strangled.
The judge was giving his charge to the Central Criminal Court jury today on the sixth day of the mushroom picker’s trial.
The 34-year-old Latvian is charged with impeding the apprehension or prosecution of her boyfriend, knowing or believing him to have murdered her 49-year-old housemate, Antra Ozolina (49), or committed some other arrestable offence.
It’s alleged that Egita Jaunmaize, of no fixed abode, placed a blue cord around Ms Ozolina’s neck so as to simulate her suicide in order to make it more difficult to establish that her death was suspicious.
She has pleaded not guilty to carrying out the offence at their home at The Old Post, Main Street, Kilnaleck, Co Cavan on or about June 27 or June 28 2014. She told gardaí that she was in fear for her life and acting on her boyfriend’s orders at the time, having just seen him strangle Ms Ozolina.
The trial has already heard that he has not been charged. The neo-nazi is currently being spoon fed as a result of a traumatic brain injury sustained months later while fleeing after a car he had hijacked crashed.
Patrick Gageby SC, prosecuting, reminded the jury that the reason the accused gave gardai for having lied initially was a fear of her boyfriend being sent back to Latvia, where he was wanted by the authorities. He said in his closing speech that this was a matter of some importance.
“The accused did not want (him) arrested and sent back,” he said. “She was in a relationship with him, let’s be frank, not one that you or I would ever be party to either as a man or a woman,” he continued. “And she did try to conceal the fact that he was the person who killed her flatmate, the lady who had taken her under her wing.”
He pointed to the fact that she had continued a relationship with him afterwards.
“No sooner was she out of garda custody than she went back to him, even though the gardai had offered to provide some security to her,” he said, referring to the offer of accommodation through St Vincent de Paul.
He also pointed to what she told gardai after his crash, when she was still living with him: “I know now I can’t help him, I can’t change him. I’m tired trying to help him.”
“Isn’t that really the thing?” suggested the barrister. “She had consistently stayed with him and tried to help him.”
He said that what she did in putting the rope around her housemate’s neck was beyond doubt.
“That, after all, was the main reason why the first gardai to the scene thought it was a suicide - a successful self hanging beside the bible and bottle,” he noted.
“What we are saying is there’s no reasonable excuse for what she did,” he said.
Giollaíosa Ó Lideadha SC, defending, began his closing speech by asking the jury a number of rhetorical questions.
“What would you have done in that situation on the night? What would a reasonable person do in those circumstances? ” he asked initially. “(He) murdered a human being, a woman, in front of Egita’s eyes. That is the prosecution case.”
He asked the jury to consider both duress and reasonable excuse as defences for his client.
“Look at the situation she was in and decide if there was a reasonable possibility she was in fear of death at the time,” he suggested.
“She is guilty of having been in a relationship with a bad man. She is guilty of going back to the bad man afterwards,” he said.
However, he said it would be a ‘horrific miscarriage of justice’ to allow a belief that she was therefore a bad person to dictate the result.
Mr Justice Patrick McCarthy told the jury that the real issue for the prosecution to prove was whether she had carried out the act with the rope ‘without reasonable excuse’.
“You must decide what, objectively speaking, a reasonable excuse is,” he said. “What would the average person, objectively thinking, consider a reasonable excuse to be?”
He said that ‘duress’ was another issue in the case.
“Duress arises where threats of immediate death or personal violence are so great as to overbear the ordinary power of human resistance,” he said.
He explained that such threats should be accepted as a justification for things that would otherwise be criminal.
“You are literally dealing with this woman’s state of mind on this occasion, not some theoretical, supposedly average person,” he said, explaining that this time the test was subjective.
He will continue his charge to the jury of seven men and five women tomorrow.