Laywers for one of three men jailed for breaking into the home of 64-year-old Thomas 'Toddy' Dooley and beating him to death, have told the Court of Appeal that their client couldn’t get a fair trial alongside his two co-accused.
Seán Davy, (24), of Clonmullen Drive, Edenderry, Co Offaly was found guilty alongside Matthew Cummins (24), of Churchview Heights, Edenderry, and James Davy (27), of Thornhill Meadows, Celbridge, Co Kildare of the murder of Thomas ‘Toddy’ Dooley at the 64-year-old's home at Sr Senan Court in Edenderry on February 12, 2014. All three had denied the charges.
The Central Criminal Court heard that the three men broke into the 64-year-old man’s home where he suffered eight blows to the head with a baseball bat.
The three men gave different accounts of what happened in the house. Matthew Cummins claimed that "out of the blue" Seán Davy walked up behind the 64-year-old and beat him on the back of the head with the bat, before coming around the armchair to continue the beating from the front.
Seán Davy claimed that James Davy was responsible for most of the blows, and that he himself struck Mr Dooley once, but "not full force". James Davy denied laying a hand on Mr Dooley, saying that Seán Davy beat him with the bat and Matthew Cummins kicked Mr Dooley but not with much force.
They were each found guilty by a jury and given the mandatory life sentence by Ms Justice Margaret Heneghan on October 10, 2016. Ms Justice Heneghan called it a "brutal, motiveless attack” on a “defenceless elderly man”.
Seán Davy moved to appeal his conviction today, Monday, July 16 in the Court of Appeal where judgment was reserved.
His barrister, Ronan Munro SC, submitted that his client’s conviction was unsafe due to a pre-trial decision not to sever the indictment and order separate trials.
Mr Munro said the garda statements of James Davy and Matthew Cummins gave the jury a “peculiarly vivid” picture that it was “all Seán Davy’s fault” and was of such intensity that it overwhelmed any judicial direction that could have been given to the jury.
In his garda statement, Matthew Cummins said he saw Seán Davy hit the deceased twice and heard another two blows. When asked by gardaí who had killed the deceased, Cummins said: “Seán Davy”.
Mr Munro said Cummins was squarely saying that his client was the perpetrator.
In his garda statement, James Davy said he saw Seán Davy hitting the deceased a few times. Furthermore, Mr Munro said, James Davy ascribed a motive to Seán Davy for what he had allegedly done. This alleged motive was never part of the prosecution’s case.
Mr Munro accepted that mere presence of incriminating material was not enough to set aside a conviction but that it was next to impossible for the jury to resist the prejudicial effect of the statements in this case.
Counsel for the Director of Public Prosecutions, Patrick Treacy SC, said the case was always presented as one of joint enterprise or common design and that Seán Davy was the only accused who actually admitted striking the deceased with a baseball bat. No such admission was made by the other two.
Mr Treacy said it was a “textbook” example of a joint enterprise case. All three had come together in a woman’s house where, it was accepted, a narcotic was taken. They had all broken into Mr Dooley’s house and were there for “all of the brutality”. It was accepted that they all left the house together and disposed of the murder weapon and other items, all of which was shown to the jury on CCTV.
All three were intrinsically bound together in the commission of the crime and if the indictment was severed, and separate trials ordered, they could have “in the absence of each other, blamed each other” allowing conjecture to arise.
Mr Treacy added that the jury were warned not to cross reference the garda statements; That an accused’s particular statement could only be used against that accused.
President of the Court of Appeal Mr Justice George Birmingham, who sat with Mr Justice John Edwards and Mr Justice John Hedigan, said the court would reserve its judgment.