Lawyers for a Dublin man convicted of strangling his partner of seven years told the Court of Criminal appeal today that it was “unprecedented” for the jury at the original trial to have been shown photographs of the victim’s body.
Stephen Carney (aged 35) had pleaded not guilty to murdering twenty-seven-year-old Amanda Jenkins following a row over cannabis smoking at Anna Livia Apartments, James' Street, Dublin 8 between October 5 and 6, 2007.
He was found guilty of her murder and jailed for life following a four-day trial at the Central Criminal Court in November 2008.
At today’s appeal hearing, counsel for the applicant, Mr Michael O’Higgins SC, told the court that the trial jury had been saddled with “unnecessary baggage” after being shown “grotesque” photographs of Amanda’s body taken by gardaí at the apartment.
Mr O’Higgins said the photographs were “repulsive in the extreme” and distributing them to the jury served no purpose, as they graphically illustrated evidence of abrasions on the victim’s neck, evidence for which had already been given to court by the State Pathologist Dr Marie Cassidy.
He said that in addition to the prejudicial photographs, the prosecution had erred in submitting evidence given by Carney as to the victim’s state of mind during the attack.
Mr O’Higgins said that Carney’s state of mind during the struggle was of vital importance, as the jury in the original trial were charged with deciding whether he was guilty of murder or if Amanda’s death was down to manslaughter due to provocation.
He said the prosecution instead sought to assess Amanda Jenkins' state of mind by submitting an interview question put to Carney as to whether he thought Amanda knew he was killing her and what was going through her mind.
Mr O’Higgins asked “how on earth” his client was expected to know the state of mind of the victim during the struggle said that this evidence ought not to have gone to the jury.
Counsel for the State, Mr Diarmaid McGuinness SC, told the court that because the defence contended that Carney had not intended to cause serious injury to the victim and kill her, evidence of her injuries and how she met her death was “hugely relevant”.
Mr McGuinness said that the photographs were a “physical and immutable” record of the injuries sustained by the victim and illustrated very clearly the evidence of manual strangulation as described by Dr Cassidy.
He said that the jury were also entitled to insight as to what Carney was thinking during the struggle and whether or not he knew he was killing his partner.
Mr McGuinness said that Carney’s answer of “She would have, yes” to an interview question of whether the victim knew she was being killed, was evidence of his acceptance of the consequences of what he was doing.
The three-judge court, with Mrs Justice Fidelma Macken presiding, has reserved judgement until a later date.