The opening day of the trial of John Dundon for the murder of Shane Geoghegan saw the accused man taken to hospital for a head injury after earlier telling the court he was illiterate and had sacked his legal team and elected to represent himself.
A gaunt, wheelchair-bound Mr Dundon appeared in the morning for arraignment at the non-jury Special Criminal Court, which heard the accused man had dismissed his legal representatives last week.
In June, the court heard Mr Dundon informed prison authorities on May 30 that he was going on a hunger and thirst strike.
He did not appear for the scheduled opening of the trial yesterday afternoon after evidence was heard that he had cut his head after fainting in his cell and was being brought to hospital.
Assistant chief officer Peter Kelly told Tom O’Connell, prosecuting, that at lunchtime yesterday, the call system was activated in the cell where John Dundon and another man, Nathan Killeen, aged 23, were held.
The prison officer said Mr Killeen informed him Mr Dundon had fainted and cut his head.
Mr Kelly said that when he entered the cell, he noticed Mr Dundon lying on the floor with a small cut on his head. He said notified the chief prison officer, moved Mr Killeen to a secure area, assessed Mr Dundon’s breathing, and put him in the correct position.
Mr Kelly said that Mr Dundon was being assessed by paramedics from Dublin Fire Brigade and it was proposed to take him to hospital for further checks.
Mr Kelly confirmed no other person other than Mr Killeen had access to the cell at lunch time.
Mr O’Connell said that he proposed to call medical evidence this morning that may assist in assessing what had occurred and whether the accused man had sought to frustrate the criminal process and harm himself.
Presiding judge Mr Justice Nicholas Kearns said the court would not make any assessment until the medical evidence was heard.
Earlier, barrister Martin O’Rourke told the court that Mr Dundon had informed Madden & Finucane solicitors he was withdrawing his instructions from them and that he wished to “conduct proceedings” on his own behalf.
Asked by the judge if he could confirm the accuracy of what was said, Mr Dundon replied: “Yeah.”
Mr Justice Kearns told Mr Dundon’s legal representatives they were free to go.
However, after the murder charge was read to him by the court registrar, Mr Dundon said: “I plead not guilty but it’s a different legal team I am looking for.”
Mr Justice Nicholas Kearns told Mr Dundon he had confirmed that he wished to withdraw his instructions, did not wish to engage new legal team, and wished to defend himself.
Told by Mr Justice Kearns that he had been asked only “a few moments ago” to confirm this, Mr Dundon replied: “I thought you meant a new legal team.” The accused man added that he could not read or write.
“You have elected to do the case yourself and you will do the case yourself,” said Mr Justice Kearns.
He told the accused man that “every possible assistance” would be granted to him and that he would be given every opportunity to ask questions and would be furnished with a daily transcript of the trial hearings.
Mr O’Connell then confirmed that a Supreme Court order for the prosecution to identify all relevant evidence disclosed to the defence had been complied with. Last month Mr Dundon lost a Supreme Court bid to have the trial deferred after his defence team received thousands of pages of investigative material one month before the trial was due to commence.
When Mr Justice Kearns said the trial would commence at 2pm, Mr Dundon told the court: “I don’t know nothing about the law, I haven’t a clue, I thought I had a separate legal team, I left school at the age of nine.”
“You have sacked your legal team and confirmed that you want to represent yourself,” the judge replied.
John Dundon, with a last address at Hyde Rd, Limerick, is standing trial for the murder of Shane Geoghegan, aged 28, at Clonmore, Kilteragh, Dooradoyle, Limerick, on Nov 9, 2008.
The trial is expected to last three to four weeks.
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