An attempt by five Limerick men to appeal their murder convictions to the country’s highest court failed today.
The Court of Criminal Appeal refused to allow the men, convicted of murdering Kieran Keane in 2003, to take their cases to the Supreme Court, ruling that they did not raise points of law of “exceptional public importance”.
Anthony McCarthy, Christopher Costello, David Stanners, James McCarthy and Desmond Dundon, who now range in age from 27 to 39, were seeking the CCA’s certification of five such points, to allow them pursue an appeal to the Supreme Court.
These included the failure of the trial judge to adjourn the trial in the face of “excessive and prejudicial” media coverage, and issues concerning the composition of the jury that had tried them.
The five men were convicted of murdering Mr Keane (aged 36), who was from Garryowen in Limerick, on January 29, 2003, and of the attempted murder of his nephew, Owen Treacy, who was stabbed 17 times, on the same date.
Mr Keane had his hands tied behind his back and was shot in an execution-style killing. There was evidence that he was tortured at or before the time of death.
The State’s case had been that all five acted as part of a joint enterprise and as such, were all involved in the murder and abduction.
Anthony McCarthy from Fairgreen in Garryowen, Christopher Costello of Moylish Avenue in Ballynanty Beg, David Stanners from Pineview Gardens in Moyross, James McCarthy from Delmege Park in Moyross and Desmond Dundon from Hyde Road were not in court for today’s judgement, because of their “threatening and aggressive” behaviour in July 2007, when their appeal against their murder convictions was rejected.
Copies of large and heavy judgments were flung at the judges presiding over that appeal.
Rejecting the men’s bid today, taken under Section 29 of the Courts of Justice Act 1924, the CCA of Mr Justice Nial Fennelly presiding, sitting with Ms Justice Elizabeth Dunne and Mr Justice Brian McGovern held it was “satisfied none” of the applicants “had been able” to identify a point of law of exceptional public importance.
The three judge appeal court heard there was “significant media intrusion” in the case, and the image of a “two-fingered gesture” which appeared in newspapers was cited before it, as well as discussions of issues surrounding the case on the 'Late Late Show'.
Delivering its judgement, the court said it was “not in dispute” that the trial of the five men attracted “enormous public interest and widespread press coverage”. However it rejected an argument put forward, that the fade factor should have applied and the trial adjourned. The court ruled the trial judge had “conducted the trial correctly”.
The CCA also held there was “no identifiable” point of exceptional public importance raised in respect of jury matters.
Two issues were argued before the court in this regard; that the prosecution engaged in "improper jury vetting" and the failure of the trial judge to discharge the jury when the presence of a civilian employee of An Garda Siochana emerged.
The person in question worked at a Dublin Garda station and was not linked to the investigating Garda station in Limerick.
It was claimed the prosecution’s objection to a jury member because the person was related to someone with a criminal conviction “led to a suspicion of previous inquiry or vetting” of the jury, and that the prosecution had “no power to gather information” and if it did, then it should be “obliged” to share it with the defence.
The court held this submission failed in the absence of any "evidential substatum", as there was no evidence as to what enquiries, if any had taken place.
The CCA refused to grant the certificate sought by the five men.