It is “implausible” to suggest that the death of builder Michael Mulvey was the “natural and probable conclusion” of an assault he suffered two weeks earlier, a defence barrister has told a Central Criminal Court jury.
In his closing statement to the jury on Tuesday Garnet Orange SC, for accused man Ian Connaghan, said Mr Mulvey was a man who was not “in good condition health wise” and that after the assault, the 55-year-old had gone back to the pub and spent the night drinking. He put it to the jury that there was “no serious injury” involved.
Mr Orange said the evidence was “hopelessly infirm” on the charge of murder and “infirm” in respect of the charge of intentionally or recklessly causing harm. Counsel submitted to the jury that they can return a verdict of not guilty in respect of both of these charges.
In his closing speech, Garret Baker, for Daniel Connaghan, told the jury that what they could not do was “plug holes” in the prosecution case or start “theorising” as to what happened if the evidence was not before them.
He submitted that the evidence presented by the prosecution in the case “falls significantly short”.
The jury have been told there was “bad blood” between Mr Mulvey and Ian Connaghan, who was crossing the Navan Road in Dublin on November 14th, 2019 when he claimed Mr Mulvey broke the lights and tried to knock him down. The Central Criminal Court heard that Ian Connaghan subsequently attacked Mr Mulvey near The Halfway House Pub and left him on the ground.
It is the State’s case that Mr Mulvey was subsequently given “a severe beating” at a roundabout by Ian and his older brother Daniel Connaghan. Brothers Ian (34) and Daniel (43) Connaghan, of Ashington Rise, Navan Road, Cabra, Dublin 7 have pleaded not guilty to the murder of Mr Mulvey (55), on November 27th, 2019. The builder died on November 14th, 2019, just over two weeks after he suffered the injuries.
Mr Orange told the jury that the cause of death was “absolutely central” to their deliberations.
The defence barrister asked the jury to consider this particularly with regard to the evidence of the various pathologists in the case but also to the evidence of the treating doctors.
He said the treating physicians were satisfied that Mick Mulvey was “well on the road to recovery” when he was released from hospital.
This was “a very unusual case”, counsel said, something that has been conceded by the three pathologists who gave evidence in the trial.
The barrister said in most cases, the cause of death is “apparent and very obvious” but that was not so in this case. He said Mick Mulvey had been admitted to hospital and released days later with painkillers.
He said Dr Heidi Okkers came to the conclusion that death was caused by the hemopneumothorax, while Dr Stuart Hamilton identified ischemic heart disease, coupled with lung disease, and scarring on the heart. He said Dr Hamilton had said the hemopheumothorax was putting pressure on the heart and the heart “just couldn’t keep up”.
The jury heard that the DPP had sought an opinion from UK pathologist Dr Hamilton, who said in his view Mr Mulvey had ischemic heart disease but that he wouldn’t have died on the day he did but for the rib fractures he suffered.
However, Mr Orange said Dr Hamilton could not say definitely that Mr Mulvey’s death was not caused by a heart attack.
“If he can’t be satisfied then how on earth can you be satisfied,” counsel asked.
Counsel said the pathologist called by the defence, Prof Jack Crane, came to the conclusion that the cause of death was a heart attack.
Counsel submitted that smoking and drinking and stress were all factors in Mr Mulvey’s life leading up to his death.
Mr Orange asked the jury to consider the body of evidence in terms of the personalities that were involved.
“It does seem clear that Mick Mulvey and Ian Connaghan had history,” Mr Orange said.
He said Mr Mulvey seemed to have been well loved by his family and friends but said there was also evidence that he could be “cranky” or “cantankerous” and reminded the jury of evidence given by Ciara Matthews that he was a man who could be aggressive when he had drink taken.
He told the jury Michael Mulvey was a man who had a “grudge” against the Connaghans which seemed to have been “festering”.
He said following his release from hospital, Michael Mulvey seemed to have been housebound for a period of days but was out and about on November 26th.
He said prosecution counsel, Anne Rowland SC, had very fairly pointed out in her closing address that there was no suggestion Ian Connaghan had intended to kill. The real issue, he said, was whether Mr Connaghan intended to cause serious injury to Mr Mulvey.
Counsel said after the incident, Mr Mulvey went back to the pub and spent the night drinking. “I would suggest to you there was no serious injury,” he said. “What were the natural consequences of his conduct? Damage to the face, two maybe three broken ribs, discomfort. I would suggest that when you think about it, it is implausible to say that the death of Mr Mulvey 13 days later was a natural and probable conclusion.”
In his directions to the jury, Mr Justice Paul Burns said that if Mr Mulvey’s death was caused by the actions of one or both of the accused, then this was either murder or manslaughter. He said causation was the action of one person that leads to the death of another.
The judge said to establish causation, it is sufficient that the injuries inflicted by the accused contributed to the death in more than a minimal way. He said the injuries may not be the sole cause of the death, it is enough that they contributed to the death.
He told the jury it is their function to establish what was the dominant cause of death.
Mr Justice Burns said it was entirely a matter for the jury whether to accept or reject, either in whole or in part, the evidence of any expert.
“If you have a reasonable doubt as to whether the injuries inflicted by one or both of the accused contributed to the death in a substantial way then you may not convict,” he said. “However if the prosecution have satisfied you beyond reasonable doubt that the injuries were a contributory factor in a substantial way, then the case is proven.”
The trial resumes on Wednesday when Mr Justice Burns will continue his directions to the jury of seven men and five women.