A jury has begun deliberating in the trial of a woman pleading not guilty by reason of insanity to the attempted murder of a civil servant, who was walking home from work.
Laura Kenna (35), of no fixed abode, is accused of attempting to murder Fionnuala Bourke on Lower Drumcondra Road, Dublin, on January 3rd, 2017.
Ms Kenna has also pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity to assaulting Ms Bourke, intending to cause her serious harm.
Her Central Criminal Court trial heard that Ms Bourke was walking home from work around 5pm that day, when she was attacked by Ms Kenna with a knife. Her throat was slit and she suffered severe facial scarring.
The jury heard that the central issue was Ms Kenna’s state of mind at the time. The court heard from two Central Mental Hospital consultant psychiatrists, who gave conflicting opinions.
Anthony Sammon SC, prosecuting, gave his closing address to the jury on Friday.
He said that “the heartland of this case” was Ms Kenna’s mental state at the time.
“The prosecution has to prove that this was done by a knowing mind,” he said. “That has been proven by what Ms Kenna said.”
She said afterwards that she had gotten a sharp knife to rob somebody and had selected Ms Bourke because “she was only little”.
Mr Sammon told the jurors that, depending on their decision, “this becomes either a penal matter or a medical matter”.
Barry White SC, defending, explained that the jury was entitled to decide on the balance of probabilities whether his client was legally insane at the time.
“You have to decide which of those two psychiatrists is likely to be correct in relation to her state of mind,” he said.
He explained that, if satisfied that the doctor called by the defence was correct, that Ms Kenna did not know the nature or quality of her act, or didn’t know it was wrong or couldn’t refrain herself, then she was entitled to a special verdict of not guilty by reason of insanity.
“Look to the witnesses,” he suggested. “Ask: ‘Which psychiatrist would I prefer to have treating or assessing a member of my family if they were in the unfortunate position of having a mental illness?’ I know which one I’d prefer.”
He noted that some of the jurors might have concerns for their own safety if Ms Kenna was to be walking the streets of Dublin tomorrow were they to return the special verdict.
“That would not be the case. You can sleep easy in your bed,” he assured them. “Ms Kenna will not be released from the care of the Central Mental Hospital until they are satisfied to recommend her release and that’s something that will be considered by a board presided over by a High Court judge.”
Mr Justice Robert Eagar outlined a number of verdicts open to the jury on each charge.
He explained that if it found, on the balance of probabilities, that Ms Kenna was suffering from a mental disorder as described, then the special verdict of not guilty by reason of insanity should be reached.
“If you do not, on the balance of probabilities, you must continue and look at what the prosecution are seeking to prove beyond a reasonable doubt, that she attempted to murder her and assaulted her,” he said.
“If you’re convinced beyond all reasonable doubt that she did attempt to murder her, you’re entitled to enter a guilty verdict,” he continued. “If you find that you’re not satisfied beyond a reasonable doubt that she attempted to murder Ms Bourke, then you must find her not guilty of that charge.”
The jury spent less than an hour considering its verdict on Friday and will resume deliberations on Monday.