A North Dublin drug addict has been found guilty of attempting to murder another addict over €200 despite jury and witness intimidation.
Michael Brennan (aged 20) of Cromcastle Drive, Kilmore was 17 when he went with another teenager to the victim’s flat and shot him twice.
He had pleaded not guilty at the Central Criminal Court to the crime against James Egan on Saturday April 29, 2006. His co-accused, Wesley Byrne of Belcamp Crescent, Darndale, is deceased.
Mr Brennan was also convicted of possession of a sawn-off shotgun and possession of live shotgun tcartridges, both with intent to endanger life. It was the first trial to take place at the new Courts of Criminal Justice on Parkgate Street, but the jury gave its majority verdict of 11 to 1 in the Four Courts, after three hours and 35 minutes of deliberation.
The eight-day trial heard that Mr Egan was shot in the stomach and thigh after opening the door of his council flat in Cromcastle Court, Kilmore Road, Coolock. Mr Egan and his partner had been smoking heroin in the flat while her four-year-old daughter slept.
He heard a knock and Wesley Byrne told him that it was him and to open the door. He opened the door as he had been expecting Mr Byrne over to bag drugs. The victim saw very little, just a shadow and a blue flash. He heard the gunshots but felt no pain due to shock.
Although the victim did not see Michael Brennan at the door, the seven women and five men of the jury were satisfied from other evidence that he was there and acted in joint enterprise.
Joanne O’Toole testified that she was in Wesley Byrne’s house that evening when both teenagers left with a gun in a Lidl bag. She was there when they returned and told her that they had shot Mr Egan.
She explained that Mr Byrne’s mother was in hospital and the house was filled with teenagers that weekend with little adult supervision.
A youth called ‘Smiler’ brought a sawn-off shotgun in through the kitchen window from the neighbour’s garden on the Friday night, she said. Wesley Byrne was waving it around, and pointed it at his brother. He later ran out onto the street and pointed the loaded weapon at people who were making noise.
After the jury gave its verdict, Mr Justice Paul Carney said he believed there had been some intimidation of jury. The forewoman said that three members had felt intimidated during the trial by two members of the public. The judge asked if the jurors could point them out, but the forewomen said that they would rather not identify them.
A male then stood up in the body of the court. "That was probably me your honour. I just seen them on the train, that’s all," he said.
Mr Justice Carney ignored this and told the jury that someone had been imprisoned during the trial for witness intimidation.
On day three of the trial, he took the unusual step of jailing a friend of the accused for contempt of court. In the jury’s absence, Detective Garda Claire Troy gave evidence that she saw Orla Dunne intimidating Ms O’Toole and Ms O’Connell.
Dunne denied pointing them out as they left court or staring and pointing at them throughout the trial.
Mr Justice Carney accepted the detective‘s evidence.
“There has been a palpable aura and atmosphere of intimidation since the beginning of this trial that you could cut with a knife,” he said, remanding Dunne in custody until the end of the trial. He said her liberty was not as important as the integrity of the trial.
Dunne cried that she was not going, that she had a three-year-old child. The jury had heard that she was pregnant in April 2006, when she was one of the people in and out of the Byrne house.
“I’m not moving,” she protested as she ran into a corner. “I’m ringing my ma.”
She rang her father and told him to come and get her.
“I’m refusing,“ she told gardaí, who accompanied her to a holding cell, as there was no prison officer available to take her to prison.
“Get a doctor. My back is killing me. I’m going to the Mater. I’m bringing an ambulance to the courtroom. I‘ve numbness in my toes.”
Dunne also threatened to take her own life before spending the weekend in prison and after engaging a solicitor.
Today, Mr Justice Carney said he had intended to call the alleged jury intimidators back to court on Tuesday with legal representation, and if he did they "wouldn't have to worry about Christmas shopping or anything of that sort”.
However he said that since the jurors declined to identify them his "hands were tied." He thanked all 12 and excused them from jury service for the rest of their lives.
He remanded Brennan in custody and adjourned sentencing until March 8.