David Mahon’s barrister has told his trial jury that his client had no motive to kill his stepson, but every reason not to harm him due to his love for Dean Fitzpatrick’s mother.
Sean Guerin SC suggested that the cause of Mr Fitzpatrick’s death was self-impalement and said the jury would have to decide, not if the death of Mr Mahon’s stepson was his fault but, if he bore criminal responsibility.
Mr Guerin gave his closing speech Tuesday to the Central Criminal Court on behalf of the Dubliner charged with murdering the brother of missing teenager Amy Fitzpatrick.
The 45-year-old has pleaded not guilty to murdering the father of one on May 26th, 2013, a day after the deceased had taken a water bottle off his bicycle to annoy him.
The 23-year-old received a stab wound to the abdomen outside the apartment that his mother, Audrey Fitzpatrick, shared with Mr Mahon at Burnell Square, Northern Cross.
Mr Mahon said that his stepson had pulled a knife on him and that he had wrestled it from him. He said he then took the knife out to show it to him and that Mr Fitzpatrick had walked onto it. The trial heard that Mr Fitzpatrick ran downstairs, but collapsed outside and bled to death internally.
Mr Guerin noted that when asked by gardaí if he thought the death was his fault, Mr Mahon said he did. The barrister said that if his client had not taken the knife out when he did, his stepson would not have died.
“As he said himself, it was a very, very stupid thing to do. It had terribly tragic consequences,” he said.
"David Mahon will have to live with the knowledge of his fault in the death for the rest of his life."
He said, however, that the issue was not whether he was at fault. “You’re being asked if he bears criminal responsibility for murder,” he said.
He noted that prosecutor Remy Farrell SC had said in his opening speech that the science and post-mortem findings would be silent witnesses for the prosecution.
“It may be that the prosecution wishes the pathologist had remained silent,” he said.
He was referring to Dr Michael Curtis’s view that it was possible that Mr Fitzpatrick had walked onto the knife.
Mr Farrell had also told the jurors that they would not be able to reconcile Mr Mahon’s account with the scientific evidence.
“Dr Curtis had no difficulty reconciling Mr Mahon’s account with the science and he’s a scientist,” he said.
He said that, as if that wasn’t enough, the prosecution had suggested that the deceased had been eviscerated, something the pathologist had rejected.
“That’s an exaggeration designed to disgust you, to portray David Mahon as some sort of butcher, some sort of savage, who had gutted Dean Fitzpatrick,” he said.
“They tried to evoke in you this instinctive, emotive response, to turn you against him.”
He referred to the prosecution’s “aphorism of suicide by stepfather” in its closing speech. He said suicide was something the jury would have to consider.
“It’s not an alternative to accident because we can’t explain the movements of Dean Fitzpatrick,” he said.
Mr Guerin outlined what had been going on in Mr Fitzpatrick’s life in the run up to the incident and the unknown effects that drugs found in his system might have had. He later described a number of scenarios for the jury.
“Let us not underestimate the obvious explanation that he didn’t see the knife,” he said.
“Maybe there is a darker, more troubling, more tragic possibility, given his significant history of mental illness and previous incidents of self harm,” he said, again reminding the jury of his recent problems.
Mr Guerin also suggested the possibility that Mr Fitzpatrick had seen the knife but had failed to appreciate the danger.
Mr Guerin addressed the State’s argument that he must have known he had caused serious injury because he had hit bone, and that anyone who has ever cut through meat knows when the knife hits bone.
“Never has a more preposterous, unscientific case been put to a jury in the absence of evidence,” he said.
He also said the state’s description of his client leaving his stepson to die on the street was a misrepresentation, the incident having taken place indoors and his client not having been on the street.
“Who lacks credibility in this case?” he asked. “Is it the prosecution because of the way they misrepresented the evidence at the beginning and sought to mislead the pathologist and then you at the end?”
He said that his client would live with the consequences of what had happened and that the jury would have to live with its verdict.
He said that David Mahon’s account was of a tragic accident, which occurred without any deliberate act or intention on his part to kill or cause serious injury. He said that none of the scientific evidence contradicted it.
“He had no motive to kill and every reason in his relationship with and love for Audrey Fitzpatrick not to harm Dean Fitzpatrick,” he said.
Ms Justice Margaret Heneghan then told the jury of six women and six men that three possible verdicts would be open to them: guilty, not guilty of murder but guilty of manslaughter, or not guilty.
She also told them that they could not speculate on why Mr Mahon’s friend, John McCormack, did not give evidence. The trial heard that Mr McCormack was in Mr Mahon’s apartment that night and had walked out onto the landing with the deceased before the incident.
She explained murder and manslaughter, and told the jury that she would summarise the evidence for them on Wednesday.