Jury begins deliberations in trial of woman accused of slicing civil servant’s throat

Jury begins deliberations in trial of woman accused of slicing civil servant’s throat
Laura Kenna pictured in October 2018

A jury has begun deliberating in the trial of a 37-year-old woman charged with attempting to murder a civil servant, who was walking home from work in Dublin two years ago.

Laura Kenna, of no fixed abode, is charged with attempting to murder Fionnuala Burke on Lower Drumcondra Road in the city on January 3, 2017, and of assault causing serious harm to her on the same occasion. She has pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity to both counts and is on trial at the Central Criminal Court.

The trial has heard that Ms Burke was working for the Department of Social Protection, and was walking home when she noticed a woman sitting on a wall outside a house.

The woman, Laura Kenna, sprang up and pushed her back onto a grassy area. Ms Kenna didn’t say anything, but started to stab her.

The court heard Ms Burke felt the short stab wounds and could also feel her face being slashed, before she felt a dramatic slash straight across her neck. Ms Kenna then spoke, telling Ms Burke that she’d let her go if she handed over her bag.

Ms Kenna later admitted to gardaí: “I sliced her like you would a goat.”

The main issue for the jury to consider was Ms Kenna’s state of mind at the time; however there was a conflict of opinion between the experts on this issue.

A consultant psychiatrist engaged by the defence, Dr Stephen Monks, testified that the accused was suffering from a mental disorder at the time; she was therefore entitled to the special defence of not guilty by reason of insanity.

However, a consultant psychiatrist engaged by the State disagreed. Professor Harry Kennedy testified that she was not delusional at the time, but carried out the attack in anger and out of a ‘sense of entitlement’; she told gardaí she’d needed money.

Barristers for both sides delivered their closing speeches today.

Barry White SC, defending, reminded the jury that both doctors had agreed that Ms Kenna had fit the criteria for the special insanity verdict when she had attacked another woman a few weeks before this attack.

A jury in that case had later reached a verdict of not guilty by reason of insanity on that charge.

However, the same two doctors had differed in this case. He pointed out that Prof Kennedy considered her to have a mental disorder after the Drumcondra attack, but not during it, and said the professor had ‘Ms Kenna going from mad to bad to mad’.

“You heard from Dr Monks that this is highly improbable,” he said.

Anthony Sammon SC, prosecuting, reminded the jury that he had said at the outset that this would not be an easy case.

“I did not tell you that this was a retrial and that another jury had struggled with this,” he said, referring to a previous jury failing to reach a verdict, something the defence had disclosed in this trial.

“That is now known to you and it endorses the statement I made that this is a difficult case,” he said.

He noted that there was no blood test that could establish a mental condition.

“One has to go through the torturous process that has been revealed to you in this case,” he continued, explaining that the Oireachtas had decided that 12 citizens coming together had to answer the question on insanity.

The six women and six men began considering their verdict this afternoon and will resume deliberations tomorrow morning. Ms Justice Tara Burns warned them not to discuss the case with anyone in the meantime.

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