Murder trial jury takes 4 hours to deliver a unanimous verdict

 

David Murphy was sentenced to life imprisonment yesterday after a jury at the Central Criminal Court unanimously found him guilty of his wife's murder 20 hours after first retiring to consider its verdict.

Murphy will spend his 37th birthday in jail tomorrow, Christmas Eve, after a 12-day trial that began on December 2nd.

The jury of eight men and four women returned at 10.56 a.m. yesterday to deliver its verdict. Jurors had spent just under four hours deliberating.

They had heard three of the late Patricia Murphy's children give evidence that they saw their "Mammy" lying dead in the garage and that "Daddy was there" when they saw it. The children's testimony was the first time video-link evidence had been shown in an Irish murder trial, and the jury asked to see it again.

Mr Justice Kelly thanked jurors for the care they had taken and freed them from service for 10 years. He said their service was made more difficult by having to pay for their own attendance and make alternative arrangements in their work and home life. He also paid tribute to the "exemplary" manner in which the defence and prosecution counsel had conducted the trial.

The judge told Murphy: "The mandatory sentence which I impose is a sentence of imprisonment for life."

Until sentence, he had lived at his father's house in Munster Street, Phibsboro. On November 30th he pleaded not guilty to the murder of his wife, Patricia (33), on May 27th or 28th, 1996, within the State.

He denied he had strangled her in their house in Griffith Avenue and that he dumped her body beside a skip in The Rise, Glasnevin.

Murphy was twice arrested for questioning about his wife's death, first on June 6th, 1996, and then on September 3rd, 1996. On April 17th, 1997, he was arrested and charged with her murder on the DPP's orders.

After sentence was passed yesterday, Murphy spent some moments talking to his counsel, Mr Brendan Grogan SC, and then looked down at his hands as they were manacled by prison guards.

Mr Grogan sought leave to appeal the jury's decision. He based his application primarily on Mr Justice Kelly's ruling that the children's video-link evidence was admissible, and also on the judge's charge to the jury before their deliberations.

Mr Justice Kelly refused leave to appeal but granted legal aid to the prisoner.

Outside, gardai and friends of the deceased expressed relief at the verdict. Det Sgt Tom McCarrick, who led the murder investigation, said: "This is a chapter that's closing on a very tragic case. There's no glory in it for anyone. There's four children that are left without any parent".

His colleague, Det Garda Bridget Shelley, who interviewed Murphy along with Det McCarrick at his house and in custody, was tearful as she spoke with friends and neighbours of Patricia Murphy.

Ms Noreen O'Donnell, a prosecution witness and friend of Patricia Murphy's for 15 years when she was in Co Clare and in Dublin, said: "It's taken a hell of a lot to get it. It was hard waiting all this time, but it eventually came, and it was worth waiting for."

Ms O'Donnell said she felt David Murphy had been involved all the time, but it had not registered until the day of Mrs Murphy's funeral more than 21/2 years ago.

In a late sitting of the Central Criminal Court on Monday night, jurors again watched the video-link evidence of the children, recorded last year in a separate hearing in Dublin District Court. The jury had requested extracts from this and other evidence, and Mr Justice Kelly ruled they could see the video again, but in full.

On Monday morning Mr Brendan Grogan SC closed the defence case by telling the jury that the prosecution had failed to answer the question of Mrs Murphy's whereabouts from the time she left work on May 27th, 1996. He said the evidence of the State Pathologist, Dr John Harbison, was that she died some time on the evening of May 27th. "So where was she between when she was seen walking that morning and when she died?" Mr Grogan asked.

Casting doubt on the video-link evidence, he asked why children who were supposed to have seen the body of their mother "in circumstances that would traumatise an adult" would be so calm and normal the day after, as gardai had testified.

Asking the jury to acquit, Mr Grogan said: "There are too many doubts, too many imponderables, too many holes in the evidence."

But junior counsel Mr George Bermingham, prosecuting, said there was "no explanation consistent with the innocence of David Murphy" for how the clothes he and his wife were wearing on the day she went missing came to be found together in a supermarket bag in the Tolka river.

He said if the jury took all the strands of the prosecution evidence together, they would convict beyond a reasonable doubt. There were, he said, enough strands or straws of evidence "to build a strong and coherent whole" that was incapable of being broken,

There was Murphy's behaviour in not calling his wife's place of work to find out where she was.

There was the evidence of his wife walking "briskly" home that morning, his child calling for its mother from the back garden later on, and the evidence of the children that they saw their mother lying in the garage.

There was also the bag of clothes thrown into the Tolka and the under-tray that was on the child's buggy on May 27th but was found in a skip on Valentia Road days later.

The prosecution had suggested Murphy wheeled his dead wife in the buggy to the site where she was found, but they conceded they had nothing other than circumstantial evidence to prove it.

In his charge to the jury, Mr Justice Kelly said they could decide to disregard some of the prosecution evidence but would still be entitled to convict on the balance of the remaining evidence.

The defence case was "He didn't do it. He absolutely didn't do it", the judge said.

He said the jurors should keep in mind that there were "a lot of discrepancies in the children's evidence" and that children were suggestible, as had been shown through cross-examination by Ms Mary Ellen Ring, defending.

To be satisfied that Murphy committed the offence, they must be satisfied that all the prosecution evidence created "a strong conclusion of guilt beyond a reasonable doubt", the jury were told.