A jury at a murder trial will have to consider whether a former heroin addict was too intoxicated to have intended to kill a man when he stabbed him twice in the neck.
The prosecution and defence gave their closing speeches yesterday, Thursday, in the trial of 30-year-old Keith Brady of Cartron Estate, Sligo who has pleaded not guilty to murder but guilty to manslaughter for his part in the death of 59-year-old Martin 'Matt' Kivlehan.
His plea was rejected by the State and he is on trial at the Central Criminal Court. Mr Kivlehan died from two stab wounds suffered at his home at New Apartments, Holborn St, Sligo on August 2/3 2015.
Justice Paul McDermott yesterday told the jury that their job is to decide whether Mr Kivlehan's death amounts to murder or manslaughter. For murder, the prosecution must prove beyond reasonable doubt that he intended to kill or cause serious injury. He said there was evidence of a "very high level of intoxication on the part of the accused", with evidence that he was drinking wine and taking heroin on the night.
The jury should consider if he was so effected as to be incapable of knowing that what he was doing was likely to kill or cause serious injury. If it is a "reasonable possibility" that he was so affected, they should return a verdict of not guilty of murder but guilty of manslaughter.
The jury must also consider whether the accused man was provoked by the actions or words of the deceased to the point where he lost all self control.
Addressing the defence of intoxication, Paul Murray SC for the prosecution asked the jury to consider what else the accused man had the capacity to do on the day of the stabbing and the following day. He went to a local church to look for money, went to a Topaz to exchange coins his sister had stolen from the church, then went to an off-licence and a Tesco and made the decision to go to Mr Kivlehan's home.
After stabbing Mr Kivlehan he had the capacity to put a duvet over the dead man, order more drugs, smoke more heroin and leave the house before walking to a derelict house on the outskirts of the town and change his clothes at a clothes bank.
When arrested later that day he had the capacity to give a "multitude of accounts" of what happened, some of which put him "out of the picture" while at other times he said he did it.
Counsel said that when the accused did admit stabbing the deceased, he did so in a "self-serving" way, accusing Mr Kivlehan of "touching up" his sister Janice. He asked the jury to consider the amount of detail he could give gardai about what happened leading up to the stabbing and after the stabbing, but he couldn't say where he got the knife and in his first account could not say if he had used a knife.
In a series of interviews with gardai Mr Brady first said that he was "falsely arrested" and denied being present when Mr Kivlehan died, then told gardai he stabbed Mr Kivlehan and when rearrested some months later "resiled" from his earlier admission.
It was in December 2015 that he called gardai to his prison cell in Castlerea and told them that he needed to "get this off my chest" and said he stabbed Mr Kivlehan in the neck. In his final statement, counsel said the accused made no suggestion that Mr Kivlehan was "touching up" Janice, saying instread: "To this day I don't know why."
Dealing with provocation Mr Murray said the jury should consider that in the final statement made to gardai in Castlerea Mr Brady did not make any suggestion that the deceased was "touching her up". He said the basis for provocation is not there, asking the jury where they could find anything Mr Kivlehan did or said that was so repugnant as to cause Mr Brady to lose self control to such an extent that he picked up a knife and stabbed him. He further asked the jury to consider the evidence of
Deputy State Pathologist Dr Michael Curtis who said there was evidence of "gross intoxication" on the part of the deceased who may have been so drunk he was incapable of defending himself.
Mr Murray said the natural and probable consequences of stabbing someone twice in the neck are "obvious" and told the jury that they are entitled to return a verdict of guilty of murder based on the evidence.
Brendan Grehan SC for the defence told the jury that the prosecution has not put forward any theory as to what happened on the night and that there is no evidence that his client decided to murder Mr Kivlehan. He said the accused's statements are not contrived but show that he can't understand why he did what he did.
"He lost it," he added. He said no "nasty allegation" had been made against Mr Kivlehan but that his client "perceived something was happening". He said that for provocation the act does not have to be something "gross or repugnant" but rather the jury would have to look at how it effected Mr Brady, with his personality and background and as a person who was intoxicated and had a "peculiar relationship with his sister".
He said the vagueness and lack of detail in the accounts given by the accused are what you would expect in a situation involving drink, heroin and tablets where a person reacts "like that" and "causes this enormous calamity to fall on Mr Kivlehan and his family".
Counsel said the jury must only consider whether the accused had the intention in the moment and that his capacity to do things before and after are not relevant.
He said his client did not have murder on his mind that night - he was "zoned out, listening to music" when this "blew up". He said that nothing his client said was an attack on Mr Kivlehan's character and that he knows that what Mr Kivlehan did would not justify his reaction, adding: "but he did react in that way."
He suggested to the jury that the "just verdict" would be one of manslaughter.
Justice McDermott will continue his charge to the jury today, Friday.