A Mountjoy prisoner who beat his 20-year-old cellmate to death has been found not guilty of his murder, but guilty of his manslaughter by reason of diminished responsibility.
Stephen Egan (aged 25) of Belcamp Crescent, Coolock, Dublin killed Gary Douche on August 1, 2006, after being transferred to the over-crowded prison without the anti-psychotic medicine prescribed to him in the Central Mental Hospital.
The jury of six men and six women reached its unanimous verdict after more than two hours of deliberation at the Central Criminal Court. Egan had admitted killing Mr Douche, but pleaded not guilty to murder.
In light of a mental illness Egan suffered, both the prosecution and defence urged the jury to find him not guilty of murder, and guilty of manslaughter by reason of diminished responsibility, a partial defence provided for by a law enacted in 2006.
A forensic consultant psychiatrist, engaged by the State, had told the jury that Egan suffers from schizo-affective disorder. Professor Tom Fahy said it was his opinion that Egan’s anti-social personality disorder substantially impaired his responsibility, meeting the requirements for diminished responsibility.
Prof Fahy said Egan had paranoid beliefs focussed on his victim when he stamped on him, punched him and kicked him to death before rubbing excrement on his face. He said his paranoid beliefs affected his judgement that morning, when he killed Mr Douche in a holding cell containing three mattresses, which the two men were sharing with five others.
Prof Fahy said that at the beginning of July, Egan was transferred from Mountjoy to the Central Mental Hospital, where he spent 10 days being treated for hallucinations and persecutory beliefs, which resulted in aggressive behaviour. Some of the beliefs concerned his family’s safety and others concerned sex offenders.
He said that partly due to Egan’s own pressure, he was discharged from the hospital on July 14 and transferred to Cloverhill prison. The voices had reduced about his family but not about rapists, and he was still receiving anti-psychotic medication.
However, Prof Fahy said that on July 29, Egan was transferred back to Mountjoy, where his medication was not available. Initially he was placed in a holding cell with two prisoners, but then with six, and he had gone two to three days without his medication when he killed Mr Douche.
“He had gone from round-the-clock seclusion in the Central Mental Hospital to sharing a cell with three mattresses and six other prisoners,” said Prof Fahy, explaining that this would not be what he would recommend for dealing with a mental illness.
He described as “surprising” the decision to discharge Egan from hospital and said his medication wasn’t continued contrary to indications. “A lack of medication would trigger a relapse,” he added.
Egan was treated in the Central Mental Hospital for two months after the killing and is now back in prison, where he spends most of his time listening to his walkman in his individual cell in a high-dependency unit.
The state pathologist’s three-day post mortem examination showed that Mr Douche died of blunt-force trauma to the head and neck. Dr Marie Cassidy’s report said he died of a sustained assault so serious that he was in cardiac arrest when the emergency services arrived.
She said there were more than 15 patterned injuries on Mr Douche’s head, trunk and arms, likely to be as a result of stamping. There were several other injuries caused by punching and kicking.
Mr Justice George Bermingham had told the jury that their eyes must have travelled to the back of the court where the victim’s family was sitting. He said their hearts must have gone out to them as they reacted to the evidence, in some cases having to leave the room
However he had said that the evidence as to Egan’s mental state was “all one way” and it would be very surprising if they were to reject that evidence.
After the jurors returned with the verdict, he said it was quite clear they didn’t regard their role as simply rubberstamping what an expert had to say, but he described their decision as “entirely proper”.
He remanded Egan in custody for sentencing on May 25.