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Jury verdict must be unanimous, says judge

The jury in the Eamonn Lillis murder trial has been told of three possible verdicts it can bring in, including the lesser conviction of manslaughter, but that any decision they make must be unanimous.

Mr Justice Barry White, giving his charge to the jury, told the Central Criminal Court jury it could either find the 52-year- old guilty of murdering his wife, acquit him altogether or find him not guilty of murder but guilty of manslaughter.

If convicted of manslaughter, the jury will have decided Lillis did not intend to kill his wife, Celine Cawley, 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 White said there were six possible decisions they could make, leading to three possible verdicts.

The TV advert producer has pleaded not guilty to the murder of 46-year-old Ms Cawley on December 15, 2008 at their home in Howth.

On the 11th day of the trial, Mr Justice White said the jury must first decide if Ms Cawley's death was murder and if not, was it an unlawful killing. "Here the defence make the case it was purely accidental," he said.

He explained that here 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, he explained, was where there was provocation, which could comprise words, actions or both.

He said that 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 that this would lead to 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 that 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 that the accused was reckless.

Split

He explained that this would apply if members 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.

He said it might have to regard Dr Curtis's evidence that Ms Cawley may not have died had medical assistance been summoned.

"So perhaps there are four considerations as regard manslaughter," he said.

"You cannot return a verdict of manslaughter in this case if you have a split in your numbers," he said. "You must all be agreed on the reason."

Mr Justice White also said human emotions must be left outside the door of the jury room. The judge will continue to advise the jury today but they expected to retire to consider their verdict later today.

Earlier, prosecutor Ms Mary Ellen Ring asked the jury to find Lillis guilty of murder, saying that an opportunity presented itself on the patio at the back of their home and Lillis took that opportunity.

hnews@herald.ie


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