Murder accused not guilty despite 'morally corrupt' behaviour, says defence barrister

Murder accused not guilty despite 'morally corrupt' behaviour, says defence barrister
Funeral of Thomas 'Toddy' Dooley

The evidence against a murder accused shows "morally corrupt" behaviour but not that he is guilty of murder, a defence barrister told a jury at the Central Criminal Court today.

Caroline Biggs SC gave her closing speech on behalf of 22-year old Matthew Cummins of Churchview Heights, Edenderry, Co Offaly.

Mr Cummins has pleaded not guilty to murdering Thomas 'Toddy' Dooley at Sr Senan Court in Edenderry on February 12, 2014.

His two co-accused, James Davy (aged 25), of Thornhill Meadows, Celbridge, Co Kildare and Sean Davy (21), of Clonmullen Drive, Edenderry have also pleaded not guilty to murder.

The trial has heard that the three men got into Mr Dooley's home through a window at about 5.30am on a cold, snowy morning in February.

The three drank with the 64-year-old for a time but at some point Mr Dooley was beaten to death and attempts were made to set his dead body on fire.

State Pathologist Marie Cassidy said his skull was smashed by eight blows to the head with a blunt object while two blows to the front and back of his body had fractured several of his ribs.

Ms Biggs said that Mr Cummins had done many things on the night that were "reprehensible" and "morally corrupt in every way".

These included being present at an earlier house party where furniture was damaged and set on fire, knowing that James Davy was carrying a baseball bat, taking drugs, climbing into the open window of Mr Dooley's house in the early hours, stealing his sleeping pills and being present when he was killed.

She said the jury might even believe that he was there when the already dead body was set on fire. Describing the prosecution's closing speech as a "justifiable character assassination" she added: "Not one of those things would allow you to convict him of murder."

She said that if Mr Cummins had been accused of impeding the investigation into Mr Dooley's death, he would have pleaded guilty, but there was no evidence he intended to kill or cause serious injury to Mr Dooley.

She said his presence when Mr Dooley was attacked is not enough to make him guilty of murder and added that the things the prosecution had accused him of - cleaning the scene and being present for the burning of the body - happened after Mr Dooley's death.

"You cannot convict a man for murder for an act he did when the person was already dead," she said, inviting the jury to find him not guilty of murder but guilty of impeding the arrest or prosecution of the principal offender.

The jury then heard from Paul Coffey SC on behalf of Sean Davy. Mr Coffey reminded the jury that they cannot take statements made by the other two accused into account when considering his client's guilt or innocence.

He said phone records showed Sean Davy was telling the truth when he told gardaí he was on the phone to his girlfriend as the three men walked towards Mr Dooley's house.

This, he said, confirmed that he did not know where they were going and was just following Matthew Cummins and James Davy.

Mr Coffey said that Sean Davy had admitted hitting Mr Dooley once with the baseball bat, after James Davy had already struck him.

Sean Davy told gardaí he didn't want to hit Mr Dooley and that he did not use "full force".

Mr Coffey pointed to evidence given by Dr Cassidy of one relatively minor blow to Mr Dooley's head which he said would be consistent with Sean Davy's account.

He said the jury would therefore have to consider Sean Davy's intentions.

"Was he of a mind to cause serious injury or death?" or did he hit him reluctantly and "not with full force".

He said Sean Davy had been consistent in his account to gardaí.

"Even when pressed at great length he remains unshakable that he hit him once," said Mr Coffey.

Sean Davy was also the only one of the three not to give an account of the burning of Mr Dooley.

Mr Coffey said this suggested that he was, as he said in his account, the first out of the house and therefore not present when the fire was lit.

Saying Sean Davy's account was "consistent and reasonable" he asked the jury to find him not guilty of murder but guilty of manslaughter.

The trial will continue in front of Justice Margaret Hengan on Tuesday when defence counsel for James Davy, Padraig Dwyer SC, will give his closing speech to the jury.

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