The jury in the trial of a north Kerry farmer accused of the murder of a neighbour has been told to return to the Central Criminal Court at 11am tomorrow to continue its deliberations.
The five women and seven men in the jury, sitting in Tralee, managed to deliberate for one hour and six minutes today before proceedings were adjourned.
Prior to the jury being sent out at 2.55pm, Ms Justice Carmel Stewart had advised that its decision had to be unanimous.
Michael Ferris, aged 63, of Rattoo, Ballyduff, is pleading not guilty to the murder of John Anthony O’Mahony, aged 74, of Ardoughter, Ballyduff, on the morning of April 4 last year, at Rattoo.
In her summing up of the case to the jury, Ms Justice Stewart said it was the prosecution case that Mr Ferris had parked his teleporter on a laneway and headed off to do a few jobs. On hearing a horn hooting, he got back into his teleporter.
He later drove the teleporter into Mr O’Mahony’s Peugeot 508, said the judge, causing “catastrophic injuries”.
Ms Justice Stewart also referred to a dispute over a ‘crow banger’ device that had been going on for over 20 years.
The noise wasn’t liked by other neighbours but, on that particular day, Mr Ferris decided to “put an end to it”.
The judge told the jury that if they accepted the defence plea of provocation, due to the past history in relation to the crow banger, the loss of self-control must be total and “cannot be tinged by calculation”.
“To justify provocation, there must be a sudden, unforeseen onset of passion which, for the moment, totally deprived the accused of his self-control,” she said .
Ms Justice Stewart advised the jury members to voice their opinions in the jury room and speak up for themselves and play a full part in the proceedings.
“How you come to your decision is entirely a matter for you,” she said.
The issue paper before the jury asks them to decide guilty of murder or not guilty of murder by reason of manslaughter.
The defence, in its closing argument, emphasised “the fair verdict, the just verdict” would be one of manslaughter, not murder.
Brendan Grehan, defending, said the matter centred on a crow banger. He said the community in Rattoo had been oppressed by Mr O’Mahony and living in fear of a totally unreasonable person.
Mr Grehan said the defence rejected the prosecution claim the killing was intentional and deliberate.
There was provocation, he said. There was an accumulation of different matters over the years which led his client — a gentleman, a private person, a kind, helpful man — to snap, said Mr Grehan.
“We are all capable of losing it or getting excited. With some of us, it builds up slowly,” he stated.
The defence, said Mr Grehan, also made “absolutely no apology” for what could be seen to be “character assassination” of the deceased.
Normally, one did not speak ill of the dead, Mr Grehan told the jury. “All of this was done so you can appreciate where Mr Ferris was coming from.
“The community there was living in fear of this man,” he said of the deceased.
By contrast, he said, no-one had a bad word for Mr Ferris; they spoke of his decency, his neighbourliness, his helpfulness, his obliging nature.
He was a man, on that morning, at the end of his tether, said Mr Grehan.
The defence, he said, was not asking the jury to condone what he did — what Mr Ferris did was a terrible thing and he accepted he unlawfully killed the accused.
But this was manslaughter, not murder.
“Michael Ferris was, and is, a good man who did a bad thing,” said Mr Grehan.
Defence counsel spoke about the scene of the crime. Rattoo, he said, is the site of an ancient monastic settlement.
Some 1,000 years ago, it was noted, there was a hospital, an abbey, church, graveyard, and one of the finest round towers you would see anywhere in the country, although Mr Grehan said he had not heard of it until this case.
The ancient site “stands as a monument to a community. People lived close to each other and shared activities.”
“And really that is what you heard in this case — people living in the community, baking scones, and dropping down scones to two bachelor farmers who got their dinner brought up to them,” said Mr Grehan, referring to neighbour Mairéad Walsh and the Ferris brothers.
“Or they might drop up eggs,” he said of the Ferris’s gesture to Ms Walsh.
However, Mr O’Mahony and his crow banger amounted to the oppression of the community, he said in his address to the jury.
The crow banger was highly intrusive — in particular the repetitive nature of it going “boom boom” all day long.
“The neighbours just had to put up with it because this man had a sense of entitlement,” claimed Mr Grehan.
Meanwhile, Patrick McGrath, prosecuting, told the jury the actions of Mr Ferris were not consistent with a sudden loss of self-control or of acting in a fury.
He had been thinking about it for a number of days, suggested counsel.
“What is remarkable is his behaviour afterwards; the absence of regret, the absence of remorse, the absence of shock,” said Mr McGrath.
The counsel referred extensively to the interviews with detectives in which Mr Ferris agreed he had set out that morning to kill Mr O’Mahony and that he drove the forks in through the car window. He had been asked if he had set out to kill Mr O’Mahony.
The accused, noted Mr McGrath, had said: “Well, if I didn’t kill him, I would have seriously injured him anyway.”
Mr Ferris had never suffered from mental health problems nor had acted under a sudden loss of control, said the prosecution.
He knew the consequences and all the evidence pointed to a rational mind and a decision-making process.
Whatever about Mr O’Mahony’s previous dealings with the law, or run-ins with his neighbours, there was “an intentional, deliberate killing” on the morning of April 4, 2017. “And that was murder,” Mr McGrath told the jury.