Friday 20 April 2018

'Was the illness in the driving seat?' - Judge instructs jury as Eric Locke murder trial deliberations begin

Eric Locke, inset, who murdered Sonia Blount
Eric Locke, inset, who murdered Sonia Blount

Eimear Rabbitte

A JURY has begun its deliberations in the trial of a man accused of the murder of his ex-girlfriend.

Eric Locke (35) has admitted he caused the death of Sonia Blount but says he did not mean to kill her and is pleading the defence of responsibility.

The mum-of-one was found strangled in a room in the Plaza Hotel in Tallaght on February 16, 2014.

Mr Locke (35), of St John’s Park East in Clondalkin, used a fake Facebook profile to meet Ms Blount, whom he had briefly dated.

In his charge to the jury this morning, Mr Justice Michael Moriarty said defence counsel Patrick Gageby SC made certain admissions at the start of the trial, namely that Mr Locke killed Ms Blount, and he had concentrated the defence on the issue of diminished responsibility.

He said the defence was not relying on a defence of insanity.

Eric Locke
Eric Locke

Mr Justice Moriarty said the defence must prove diminished responsibility on the balance of probabilities if it is to be successful in reducing the charge of murder to manslaughter.

He said the jury must decide if Mr Locke was suffering a mental disorder of some seriousness at the time of the incident, and that if the mental disorder was such to substantially reduce or diminish his responsibility for Ms Blount’s death.

Mr Justice Moriarty said that if diminished responsibility does not “stack up” than the jury may find Mr Locke guilty of murder.

He said the jury had heard from three psychiatric consultants. “It’s not an absolute science”, he said.

He said two defence psychiatrists, Dr Sean O Domhnaill and Dr Richard Bunn both gave testimony that Mr Locke had a mental disorder at the time of the killing.

He said Dr Frank Kelly, on behalf of the prosecution, gave evidence that Mr Locke showed aspects of unusual behaviour and he may have a personality disorder, but it did not amount to a mental disorder.

Mr Justice Moriarty said the jury should ask the question “Was the illness of Mr Locke in the driving seat and was it directing activities” when Ms Blount was killed.

He said that due to technological advances, a lot more is known about the night Ms Blount died than would have been known 20 or 30 years ago.

He suggested that the jury take careful regard of the garda interviews with Mr Locke, as well as the three books of text messages between Mr Locke and Ms Blount as well as State Pathologist Prof Marie Cassidy’s evidence.

Mr Justice Moriarty also told the jury it was not to concern itself with the consequences of its decision.

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