Murderer loses appeal against conviction, life imprisonment upheld

A man found guilty of murdering Dubliner David White by repeated stabbing has lost his appeal against the Central Criminal Court’s 2013 conviction and life sentence.

Judges in the Court of Appeal rejected the appellant’s numerous grounds for appeal, including allegations that the trial judge had erred in law and fact during their directions to the jury, and that inadmissible evidence had been allowed before the Court.

Birmingham J, Sheehan J and Mahon J heard that on the night in question, the deceased was walking home alone from a pub in Phibsboro when he encountered the appellant, who stabbed and injured him, before driving him to a wasteland area in Mill Lane, Palmerstown, where he stabbed him repeatedly, causing his death. It was the appellant’s defence at trial that the murder was in fact committed by another individual who had been present throughout the incident, one Simon Griffin.

Before the Court of Appeal, the appellant argued first that it was wrong to admit inferences from interviews conducted under s.18 (accounting for marks on one’s person) and s.19 (accounting for presence at a particular place) of the Criminal Justice Act 1984 (as substituted by theCriminal Justice Act 2007).

The appellant argued that the judges’ direction to the jury that inferences could be drawn “because of an unsatisfactory or untruthful response, as opposed to a non-existent or futile one”, was an unjustified extension of the inference provisions.

However, the judges considered that the appellant’s response to questions under s.18 relating to the presence of his DNA on the victim’s jeans, that “I am not a doctor or a scientist so I just don’t know”, was a deliberate attempt to be evasive.

Similarly, the Court found that his response to s.19 questioning: “Can’t remember if I was there or not” could be considered a refusal to reply.

In response to the appellant’s claim that his responses had not been given voluntarily, due to his awareness of the risk of inferences being drawn, the judges held that the appellant had not been compelled to answer, and that therefore the responses were voluntarily given.

The claim that the jury had been incorrectly directed was also rejected, the judges found that the trial judge’s charge to the jury accurately reflected the evidence given.

The appellant also made a number of appeals against evidence admitted during the trial.

Testimony of a witness who claimed that the appellant had been in possession of a knife earlier in the evening was challenged, on the grounds that such evidence amounted to evidence of prior misconduct, and was therefore inadmissible. However, the judges found that such evidence was relevant and that therefore it was correct to put it before the jury.

The appellant also challenged evidence of his bad character, which had been admitted in response of his impugning the character of his accomplice Simon Griffin. He argued that evidence of a previous conviction for explosives could not be taken as probative of the murder allegation, and that the jury should have been informed as such.

Delivering the judgment, Sheehan J stated that “It is difficult to understand this complaint… the trial judge properly directed the jury on this issue concluding his direction by saying that a previous conviction could have a bearing on a witnesses credibility.”

Evidence which emerged during the trial was also challenged, including revelations of a conversation in which the accused warned a witness to “keep his mouth shut” about the murder.

The appellant argued for the discharge of the jury at this point during the original trial, and was refused on the grounds that he had not shown how he was “unable to cope” with this revelation. This decision was supported by the appeal judges.

Finally, the appellant’s argument that DNA evidence connecting the appellant to the deceased was taken without authority. This argument was based on his status as an incarcerated individual, which led to his detention being under s.42 of the Criminal Justice Act 1999, which did not allow for such samples to be taken.

However, the judges’ analysis of the relevant statutory provisions found that the intention of the Criminal Justice Act 1999 was for the person detained to have the same rights and obligations as an individual detained under s. 4 of the Criminal Justice Act 1984, which allowed for samples to be taken.

As a result, all grounds for appeal were rejected, and the appellant’s conviction and life sentence upheld.

  • by Rachel Killean for Irish Legal News
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