A trial of a man accused of threatening to kill a garda collapsed yesterday, after a member of the jury allegedly told another juror, “it’s all corrupt”.
The juror in question made the comment in front of a garda in charge of protecting the jury, Limerick Circuit Court heard.
Outlining the allegation, John O’Sullivan, prosecuting, told Judge Tom O’Donnell, presiding: “The juror deemed it appropriate to make a comment in a case where the credibility of the gardaí is in question.”
Mr O’Sullivan then told the judge he had a “troubling application to make”.
“The garda in charge of the jury was spoken to by (a juror) as the jury was sent away... They made an observation or a comment to the effect, that ‘yer all corrupt’, or something of that sort.”
Mr O’Sullivan said he was “compelled” to apply to have the jury discharged.
Called to give evidence, the garda in charge of the jury said she overheard the juror in question tell another juror: “It’s all corrupt.”
Other jurors were present, she said.
Cross examining the witness, Anthony Sammon, defending, produced a copy of last Tuesday’s Irish Times.
The witness said she had not read the paper.
“So, you’re not familiar with Fintan O’Toole’s opinion piece in the Irish Times — the paper of record — dealing with the issue of (alleged) Garda corruption,” Mr Sammon asked the garda.
The witness agreed the juror’s alleged comment was not directed at her, and that she had “only heard a snippet of a conversation”.
“It may well have been that some of the jurors may have been taken up by Mr O’Toole’s opinion piece,” Mr Sammon said. He described the State’s application to have the entire jury discharged as “scandalous” and “outrageous”.
Mr Sammon read the entire article into the record and a copy of the article was handed into the court.
Addressing Judge O’Donnell, Mr Sammon said, that the court, as well as “anyone with any wit or intelligence”, was aware of the current public controversy surrounding alleged Garda malpractice arising out of the O’Higgins report.
Judge O’Donnell said he had read the article.
After he discharged the jury, the judge remarked: “I feel the (alleged) comment made is of concern, and I find that it is appropriate, given the nature of the case, to discharge the jury.”
The case before the court took another twist when it became apparent a new jury could not be sworn in.
After 10 new jurors were picked, the court ran out of possible candidates to fill the final two juror seats.
“It’s the first experience this court has had of that difficulty,” Judge O’Donnell said. He asked the 10 selected jurors to “stand down” and he also discharged them.
“Perhaps the fine weather may have played a part,” Mr O’Sullivan remarked.
The accused man was remanded in custody for trial to the next court callover in July.
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved