A teenager jailed for life two years ago, having lured another teen to his death by pretending to be a girl over text messages, has had his appeal against conviction dismissed on all grounds.
Marcus Kirwan, of Cooley Road, Drimnagh, Dublin, now 22, had denied murdering 19-year-old David Byrne in Dublin four years ago.
The Central Criminal Court heard that Kirwan had lured Mr Byrne to a meeting on the night of March 19, 2011, by sending text messages pretending to be a girl. When the Drimnagh teenager arrived to meet the girl, he was set upon by Kirwan and other youths, who chased him into a dead end at an apartment complex.
Kirwan then stabbed Mr Byrne nine times, once in his face and eight times in his back. His heart and lungs were punctured and one of the fatal wounds was 20cm deep. A jury found him guilty following a three-week trial and he was given the mandatory life sentence by Mr Justice Garrett Sheehan on February 4, 2013.
Kirwan moved to appeal his conviction on four main grounds involving an arrest warrant as well as alleged irregularities in the identification process and CCTV evidence.
His barrister, Dominic McGinn SC, had argued that an arrest warrant issued to a garda superintendent provided no basis for Kirwan’s arrest by another garda.
Rejecting this ground, Mr Justice George Birmingham said there was a statutory basis for what had occurred and it had been garda practice since “time immemorial”.
Furthermore, it was manifestly clear that neither the superintendent nor the detective garda who arrested Kirwan were engaged in a deliberate or conscious violation of his constitutional rights, Mr Justice Birmingham said, in reference to the Supreme Court’s decision known as ‘JC’.
Turning to the other grounds of appeal, Mr Justice Birmingham said the identification of Kirwan on CCTV footage by a garda was a correct procedure even if contemporaneous records ought to have been kept.
He said evidence on how CCTV footage operates was not required in the same way evidence on how car engines operate is not required by the courts. CCTV cameras were “ubiquitous”, Mr Justice Birmingham said, and used in almost every investigation.
The fact of contact between the phone linked to Kirwan and the phone of the deceased formed circumstantial evidence, the judge said. Mr Justice Birmingham, who sat with Mr Justice Alan Mahon and Mr Justice Michael Peart, said all grounds of appeal were rejected and the court dismissed the appeal.
There were audible sighs of relief and sounds of sobbing from the family of Mr Byrne to that final announcement. Speaking outside court, David’s aunt Angela Byrne said the family were “over the moon that justice has prevailed again for us”.
“We’ve been to hell and back in the last four years. We’ve tried to stop this. It was so hard because we lost our sister, his [David’s] mam as well so shortly after David.” The appeal had “stressed us beyond belief”, she said.
David’s uncle, Bill Byrne, thanked the gardaí.
“They were terrific throughout the whole thing, the support we got was great. I’d like to thank them”.
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