Verdict of manslaughter open to jury but all must back decision
THE jury in the murder trial of Eamonn Lillis has been advised one of the options available to them is a lesser conviction of manslaughter -- but if they reach this decision they must agree unanimously on the reason.
If convicted of manslaughter, the jury will have decided Mr Lillis did not intend to kill his wife but that, as a result of certain actions, she died at his hands.
Instructing the six men and six women of the jury, Mr Justice Barry White said there were six possible decisions they can make, leading to three possible verdicts.
Speaking after both counsels had given their closing speeches at the Central Criminal Court yesterday, he advised them they could find the 52-year-old guilty of murdering his wife, Celine Cawley, acquit him altogether, or find him not guilty of murder but guilty of manslaughter.
The TV advert producer has pleaded not guilty to the murder of 46-year-old Ms Cawley on December 15, 2008.
However, Mr Justice White said if the jury opted for one of the four considerations regarding manslaughter, they must be in unanimous agreement as to which of the four they decide on.
The judge said the jury must first decide whether Ms Cawley's death was murder and if not, was it an unlawful killing.
"Here the defence makes the case it was purely accidental," he said. He explained there were usually three circumstances in which an unlawful killing might not be murder.
The first, he said, was if the individual did not intend to kill or cause serious injury. The second was where there was provocation, which could comprise words, actions or both.
He said such provocation must "affect the mind to such an extent that for the moment he is not the master of his own mind", and cause a sudden and temporary loss of self-control.
Thirdly, he said there were two types of self-defence.
"A person is entitled to act in self-defence and take the life of another to prevent losing his own life," he said, explaining this would lead to absolute acquittal.
"Where one acts in self- defence using more force than reasonably necessary, this is not an absolute defence," he said.
"If he genuinely believed the amount of force was necessary but the jury thought it was excessive, that will reduce murder to manslaughter."
He said that in this case, the jury could also reduce murder to manslaughter if it decided the accused was reckless.
This would apply if it was decided that, on knowing his wife was injured, the defendant showed a serious lack of regard to her health and indifference to the risk to her health and welfare.
"You cannot return a verdict of manslaughter in this case if you have a split in your numbers," he added.
Mr Justice White will continue to advise the jury this morning and they are expected to retire to consider their verdict this afternoon.
Earlier, Mary Ellen Ring, prosecuting, told the jury Mr Lillis had lied to gardai and his daughter about the circumstances surrounding the death of his wife.
Giving her closing statement, she said the version of events he had given to the jury differed from what he had told his daughter and his lover, massage therapist Jean Treacy.
Asking the jury to find Mr Lillis guilty of murder, Ms Ring said that on December 15, 2008, an opportunity presented itself on the patio and Mr Lillis took that opportunity.
Brendan Grehan, defending, asked the jury to acquit his client. But he said if they opted not to do that, they must consider a verdict of manslaughter.
He contended that if Mr Lillis had planned to kill his wife, he would surely have chosen a better location and would not have planned to meet his lover that day.
"It was not a case where someone's head was battered in," he told the jury, adding that Ms Cawley did not suffer brain injuries or a fractured skull.
He referred to the evidence of the deputy state pathologist that, as an obese woman who was likely lying face down, Ms Cawley's ability to breathe would have been impaired, leading to her death.
"If you're going to kill someone, you make sure you do it properly," said Mr Grehan.
He conceded that the accused lied to gardai and asked the jury not to put "undue influence" on the fact he was having an affair at the time.