The jury in the Eamonn Lillis murder trial has been given six possible decisions it can make, but it has been told that any decision must be unanimous.
Mr Justice Barry White told the Central Criminal Court jury it could either find the 52-year-old guilty of murdering his wife, acquit him altogether or find him not guilty of murder but guilty of manslaughter.
The TV advert producer has pleaded not guilty to the murder of 46-year-old Celine Cawley on December 15, 2008, while their teenaged daughter was at school.
He first said he found an intruder attacking her at their home, Rowan Hill, Windgate Road, Howth. He has since admitted there was no intruder.
On the 11th day of the trial in an overcrowded courtroom, Mr Justice White said the jury must first decide if Ms Cawley’s death was murder and if not, was it an unlawful killing.
“Here the defence make the case it was purely accidental,” he said.
He explained that there were usually three circumstances in which an unlawful killing might not be murder.
The first, he said, was if the individual did not intend to kill or cause serious injury.
The second, he explained, was where there was provocation, which could comprise words, actions or both. He said that such provocation must ‘affect the mind to such an extent that for the moment he is not the master of his own mind’, and cause a sudden and temporary loss of self control.
Thirdly, he said there were two types of self defence.
“A person is entitled to act in self defence and take the life of another to prevent losing his own life,” he said, explaining that this would lead to absolute acquittal.
“Where one acts in self defence using more force than reasonably necessary, this is not an absolute defence,“ he said. “If he genuinely believed that the amount of force was necessary but the jury thought it was excessive, that will reduce murder to manslaughter.”
He said that in this case the jury could also reduce murder to manslaughter if it decided that the accused was reckless.
He explained that his would apply if jurors decided that, on knowing his wife was injured, the defendant showed a serious lack of regard for her health and indifference to the risk to her health and welfare.
He mentioned Dr Curtis’ evidence that Ms Cawley might not have died had medical assistance been summoned.
“So perhaps there are four considerations as regards manslaughter,” he said.
“You cannot return a verdict of manslaughter in this case if you have a split in your numbers,” he said. “You must all be agreed on the reason.”
Earlier, Mary Ellen Ring SC, prosecuting, said that this was an opportunistic murder, not some sort of accident.
“The prosecution says that in this case an opportunity presented itself on the morning of the 15th of December 2008 on the patio, and Eamonn Lillis took up a brick and hit Celine Cawley three times,” she said in her closing speech.
She said he then went upstairs and ‘calmly, in a controlled fashion,’ washed his hands and his watch, changed his clothes, ‘had the wit to get camera gear’, put everything in a bag and under items in the attic. She said that it was only when he found his wife dying that panic set in.
Ms Ring said that intention was the issue in murder cases and that although remorse often followed, it didn’t undo intention.
“The intention when he was with the brick in his hand and applying moderate force to his wife’s head; that’s what you have to look at,” she said.
“This is not a man who went berserk and lost control of himself,” she suggested. “It was an opportunity that presented itself. He took that opportunity and caused the damage that led to Celine Cawley’s death.”
Ms Ring reminded the jurors of a number of pieces of evidence.
She pointed to paramedic Stephen O’Reilly’s testimony that Ms Cawley’s body seemed colder than expected when he attended her, in light of the time the 999 call was made.
She said paramedic Paul Canavan had slipped twice but hadn’t fallen and hurt himself, didn’t need medical assistance and was able to continue with his work.
She recalled that Mr Lillis had testified that he found his wife mostly on her back with her limbs facing sideways. This was contrary to what he told the emergency operator and gardaí, she said.
“Dr Curtis was clear that the wounds were consistent with having been caused by the application of blunt force with a solid implement,” she said, referring to deputy state pathologist Dr Michael Curtis.
“He didn’t think they were caused by one or three separate falls.”
She recalled that the pathologist also said that if she’d fallen on her back, he’d have expected more injuries to her back, even if she hit her head first. There would also be marks on her back if she were pushed against the window edge, she suggested.
She said that there were two horizontal, gaping wounds to the back of Ms Cawley’s head, but the window edge that her husband said she might have hit was vertical.
The true verdict in this case, she concluded, was that Eamonn Lillis murdered his wife.
Brendan Grehan SC, defending, asked the six women and six men of the jury to look coldly and clinically at the evidence and ask themselves if the case that Ms Ring outlined stood up to scrutiny.
“The bottom line in the prosecution’s case is that he murdered Celine Cawley because an opportunity presented itself,” he said in his closing speech.
He said that if Mr Lillis was looking for an opportunity to murder his wife, he would have found a much better place than the one part of their property that was exposed to public view. He reminded them that the patio of Rowan Hill could be seen from a right-of-way running alongside it.
He reminded them of other evidence that described his demeanour as normal earlier that morning.
He also said that the injuries to Mr Lillis’s face ‘did not square’ with the idea of this being an opportunistic killing.
He recalled the post-mortem examination evidence that the blows to Ms Cawley’s head were from moderate force, which probably wouldn’t have killed her if she hadn’t an enlarged heart and obesity. This was something an ordinary person wouldn’t know, he said.
“If you were going to kill someone, you’d do it properly,” he said, suggesting that one wouldn’t use moderate blows.
“Eamonn Lillis was having an affair, and perhaps even the strongest marriage that is totally fulfilled could be rocked,” he said, suggesting that the affection of “a beautiful young woman has the capacity to roll back the years in your life”.
He asked who wouldn’t be flattered if his hand was put on a pulse he caused to race, referring to Jean Treacy putting Mr Lillis’s hand on her racing pulse.
“I’m not suggesting that it was anything other than a fling, that he was going to go riding off into the sunset,” he said. “But conceivably he might have responded differently to how he might have in a row with his wife otherwise.”
He said that lies alone could never be justification for finding someone guilty.
“Nor can an affair,” he said. “This is a court of law, not a court of morality.”
His instructions were that his client did not intentionally inflict injuries on his wife, he said, and that in the aftermath Mr Lillis did not believe she was seriously injured.
Mr Grehan then quoted Detective Garda Paul Donoghue who gave evidence of interviewing Mr Lillis about the death.
“You have to face what happened. It’s quite obvious a terrible tragedy happened,” he said, suggesting that a row had broken out with Ms Cawley. “You lost your head. It’s within all of us. We can crack up and get very, very angry. I can do it,” he continued.
“From what I’ve heard of you, everyone is saying you’re a very nice guy, a lovely fellow, a gentle, caring person, which leads us to conclude it was some kind of explosion and your head flipped that morning.”
Mr Grehan said his client did not have a reputation for being a nasty, violent person.
“All the evidence suggests he’s not someone capable of an opportunistic murder. All the evidence suggests there was a row and injuries resulted from that row,” he continued.
He suggested that the prosecution had put forward no alternative account of how things happened, and how the injuries to both spouses occurred.
“It’s not made out that they were all inflicted by a brick,” he said, concluding that the jury could not be satisfied that Mr Lillis was guilty of murder.
Mr Justice White will continue his charge to the jury tomorrow morning