A Carrigallen teenager with intellectual difficulties was found guilty of killing the pensioner he claimed sexually abused him when he was younger.
Brendan McGovern of Killahurk, Carrigallen, Leitrim was on trial at the Central Criminal Court, charged with murdering 73-year-old John Golden in Co Cavan on October 6, 2010. The 19-year-old pleaded not guilty, but admitted assaulting the pensioner in his home in Nedd, Doogarry, Killeshandra.
The jury found him not guilty of murder, but guilty of manslaughter after two hours deliberating on Thursday, July 26.
The five-day trial heard that the pensioner was rushed to hospital on September 7th 2010, after a neighbour found him unconscious under his bed in his prefabricated house. He died of septicaemia and other hospital-related complications a month later.
The teenager said he had gone to Mr Golden’s home to confront him about his continued taunts. However, he said that Mr Golden presumed he had arrived for sex and handed him a condom and took off his trousers. The defendant said this made him angry, that he put the condom on his fist and punched the pensioner in his back passage before kicking and beating him. The trial heard that Mr Golden had been the subject of a garda investigation during the 1990s, when he admitted showing pornographic videos to young teenaged boys.The trial also heard from a clinical psychologist, who said the accused would have difficulties thinking through the consequences of his actions due to Borderline Intellectual Functioning.
The prosecution had argued that even if the jury took the view that John Golden had interfered with the accused, no person had the right to take the law into his own hands.
“We don’t live in the Wild West,” said Bernard Condon SC, prosecuting, in his closing speech.
“If John Golden was a sex abuser, he was entitled to a fair trial,” he continued. “What he was not entitled to happen to him was to be beaten on the ground in his bedroom, violated in the way he was, and left on the flat of his back for several hours.”
Mr Condon said that there may be portions of his life which the jury found unpleasant, but that did not mean he was not entitled to fairness. He said that sexual assault was a common experience in our society, but assured the jury that a verdict of murder was not an approval of sexual assault.
“You’re not here to approve of the life of John Golden. You’re here to decide if Brendan McGovern killed him,” said the prosecutor. “You’re not here to right other wrongs.”
“This is a difficult case. There’s sympathy swirling,” he said, adding that this would not be helpful in their deliberations.
He said there was ample evidence to convict the teenager of murder.
Patrick Gageby SC, defending, said there was no question of justifying a beating to someone, ‘no-matter what he has done to you’. “I’m not inviting you to apply emotional standards here, other than your knowledge of human nature, of young people being abused and how they might respond,” he said. He pointed out that Mr Golden’s cause of death was given as a hospital-acquired illness and noted that his original head and rectal injuries were healing when he died. “The prosecution must prove that Brendan McGovern caused the death of John Golden in the legal sense,” he said.
He also noted that the definition of murder stated that a person was presumed to intend the natural and probable consequences of his actions, but that this could be rebutted. “Utterly different considerations apply when you know where Brendan McGovern functions on the intellectual scale,” he said, adding that his client was legally a child at the time.
“The issue is not what the reasonable man would do,” he said. “The mental condition of the accused would clearly indicate that he would not foresee matters as others would.” He said that maybe a boy of better abilities would have gone to the gardai or his parents.
“That’s not Brendan McGovern,” he said. He said that if the jury was satisfied that his client had caused Mr Golden’s death and had intent, it was time to examine provocation, which can reduce murder to manslaughter.
He said there was no violence until Mr Golden took off his trousers.“What precipitated the violence was the way he was treated by the man who had sexually abused him in the past,” he said.
“Mr Golden had taken off his trousers and expected that the person he’d abused as a boy was going to pleasure him sexually,” he said, suggesting that it would be amazing if he didn’t lose self control then.
“Brendan McGovern didn’t do anything until he behaved as though all his Sundays had come at once,” he said. “That was the straw that broke the camel’s back.”
The jury of six men and five women reached a unanimous verdict of guilty of manslaughter.
Mr Justice Carney remanded Brendan McGovern on continuing bail for sentencing in October.