Man (20) was running for life when killed with baseball bat, court told

Man has pleaded guilty to manslaughter but not to murder of other man in Kildare

The prosecutor told the jury that, for a murder verdict, the State had to prove that the accused had intended to kill or cause serious injury. File photograph: Dave Meehan/The Irish Times

The prosecutor told the jury that, for a murder verdict, the State had to prove that the accused had intended to kill or cause serious injury. File photograph: Dave Meehan/The Irish Times

 

The barrister for a man, who killed a 20-year-old with a single blow of a baseball bat, has suggested that the force with which he wielded the bat could be evidence that he’d lost control.

The prosecutor earlier said that the deceased was running for his life, retreating and no threat to his killer, who she argued struck the deceased in anger.

Both sides were giving their closing speeches to the jury on Tuesday in the trial of the truck driver, who killed Kildare man Joseph Dunne seven years ago.

Zoltan Almasi (49), a Serbian man with an address at Harbour View, Naas, has pleaded not guilty to murdering Joseph Dunne, but guilty to his manslaughter at Harbour View on May 16th, 2014.

The Central Criminal Court has heard that Mr Dunne died after receiving a blow to the back of his head, shattering his skull and driving the bone in towards the brain.

The trial has heard that Mr Dunne had banged on or jostled Mr Almasi’s van, which was parked outside his home. Mr Almasi chased the deceased away with a baseball bat. He says that he didn’t realise that he had struck Mr Dunne with the bat until he later saw an ambulance and Garda car in the area.

Defence

Barra McGrory QC addressed the jury on behalf of Mr Almasi on Tuesday afternoon.

He said that if the jury was satisfied that his client had intended to strike JJ Dunne on the head, there would not be any great argument from him, other than that there was an intention to cause serious harm. However, he said that the prosecution had to prove that he was aiming at his head, not aiming anywhere else or trying to scare him when wielding the bat.

“The part of the bat that struck him was the tip of the bat, the last 4cm of the bat,” he said, referring to the pathologist’s evidence.

“That, I say, is very significant because there’s 4cm between the life and death of JJ Dunne,” he continued. “Had Zoltan Almasi been 4cm back, the bat would have missed his head; it might have hit him in the shoulders or back. That might have been his intention if he formed a clear intention at that moment.”

Counsel said that, if the prosecution did prove intention to kill or cause serious harm, then the jury had to consider the partial defence of provocation, which can reduce a murder verdict to one of manslaughter.

He said the jury had to consider Mr Almasi’s perception of the attack on his van, and how someone with his characteristics would view that act.

Consideration had to be given to his background, where he lived, his experience of where he lived, his personal circumstances, the time of day, how tired he was, and how important the van was to him, said Mr McGrory. There also had to be sudden and total loss of self-control, he added.

“What I want to do is walk around in Zoltan Almasi’s skin for a short while,” he said.

The barrister asked the jury what was known of the Harbour View area. He quoted various witnesses, who described trouble in the area. One resident said she wouldn’t go outside her door at night unless she really had to. Business people there described it as a black spot for hassle.

Counsel noted that there had also been a stabbing in Naas a month earlier.

“That’s another factor in the build-up to this incident from the perspective of Zoltan Almasi, through his skin,” he suggested.

He noted that, on hearing and seeing one or more youths banging his van, Mr Almasi got dressed and ran outside.

“When he was getting dressed, grabbing the bat and going outside was when he entered the zone of being out of control,” he suggested. “Maybe the force with which he wielded the bat is evidence of that.”

The pathologist had described as “severe” the force needed to cause the fatal injuries.

Prosecution

Caroline Biggs SC earlier addressed the jury on behalf of the State.

“JJ Dunne has lost his life, he has lost his right to exist,” she said. “You have a grieving family here in court. You’d be inhumane if you didn’t feel sympathy for that family.”

However, she said that the jury could not let that sympathy affect the deliberations.

“Nor are you entitled to take the view that this is not like other murders you’ve heard about,” she said, citing the example of gangland murders with pre-planning carried out in advance.

“You might think this is not as egregious,” she said. “Murder is murder even if for a fraction of a second you have the intention. There’s no need for preplanning.”

She asked the jury to consider the CCTV footage, which captured the chase just before the killing, and showed Mr Almasi raising the bat in his hand.

“The decision has been made by the mind to tell the hand to move,” she said. “The area that is now the focus is not the leg or hip or arm, it is the head. The arm is raised for a reason. You can infer that Mr Almasi intended to cause serious injury.”

Counsel explained that, in this case, if the jury was satisfied of the intention to kill or seriously injure, it then had to ask if Mr Almasi was provoked. She explained that it was for the State to prove that the accused was not provoked.

Ms Biggs pointed out that provocation involved a sudden and total loss of self-control.

“You have to look at the actions of Mr Almasi and determine, at the time he killed JJ, if he was the master of his own mind,” she said. “He suggests a loss of memory but that does not equate with a loss of self-control. I suggest that anger is what he felt when he was hitting JJ. That is not enough for provocation.”

Counsel said that Mr Dunne had run as soon as he saw the bat.

“He’s left, so there’s no need for Mr Almasi to go one step further. He could have happily gone back into his house, but he doesn’t,” she said. “He picks up the bat and hits Mr Dunne… I suggest that you can be satisfied on the evidence that Zoltan Almasi intended to kill or cause serious injury to JJ Dunne.”

She said the jury could also be satisfied that he was not provoked.

“I suggest he killed JJ Dunne when JJ Dunne was running for his life, he was in retreat and no threat to Mr Almasi, and he killed him in anger,” she suggested. “And if that is the case, he’s guilty of the crime of murder.”

Mr Justice Michael White will charge the jury of seven men and four women on Wednesday.