It’s been a hectic start to the year. Since January 11th almost every waking hour has been taken up with the Eamonn Lillis trial. I’ve covered it for the Sunday Independent and for Hot Press. I’ve written about it here and on Twitter. I’m not the only one. Pretty much every journalist in Dublin who covers the courts has been totally obsessed with the lives of Eamonn Lillis, Celine Cawley and Jean Treacy.
It happens every time there’s a big trial, the kind where newsdesks devote daily double page spreads to each days evidence, the kind we’ve been having once or twice a year since the flood gates opened with the criminal extravaganza that was the Joe O’Reilly trial. I’m not getting into whether or not the media pay too much attention to big trials, after all it’s what I do for a living, but covering one like the Lillis trial is an all consuming experience.
I’ve covered courts on both sides of big trials. When the O’Reilly trial was going on I had the job of covering every other murder that took place in that three week period. It was a busy time, although you wouldn’t have known it from your daily paper. Every day of the O’Reilly trial there was at least one other murder trial going on. I covered all of them (luckily none of them actually ran at the same time as each other although there were one or two overlaps).
It’s a little surreal covering a trial when there’s something like the Joe Show going on next door. There were days when even the accused seemed more interest ted in what was going on on the other side of the Round Hall than the evidence that was coming up in his own trial. Maybe it’s because of the circumstances, or because I was still fairly new to the job, but I can still remember the names of the accused in each of those trials. It might also have been because all three trials were acquittals, which don’t happen that often.
There was the taxi driver’s son acquitted of murder after he had been the subject of an unprovoked attack while he was walking his dogs. Then there was the two traveller guys accused of attempting to murder another fella. When they were acquitted the chief prosecution witness was one of those waiting outside the courts who lifted the freed men cheering onto their shoulders. During that trial, the defence insisted the jury see a wall that featured heavily in the prosecution’s case so we all went on a junket to the estate. The locals all came out of their houses to see what on earth was going on and Mr Justice Paul Carney posed for photographs.
Then there was the trial where the chief prosecution witness seemed to know a lot more than he let on. Something the jury obviously picked up on as they acquitted the accused despite two days of particularly damning testimony from the witness.
I’ve been thinking about those weeks on and off this week because I suddenly realise that there were a lot of things I was supposed to be keeping an eye on that I’ve written about on this blog. Ann Burke for example, the 56-year-old mother from Laois, who was convicted of the manslaughter of her abusive husband before Christmas. I wrote about the trial here so I won’t recap but she was supposed to be sentenced during the Lillis trial. I noticed several people have arrived at this blog looking for information on the sentencing so I checked it out. As it turned out I didn’t miss it with all the Lillis circus. Her sentencing has been deferred until March 22nd so I’ll keep an eye out.
Another one that’s pending is the result of Finn Colclough’s appeal. Finn was convicted back in December 2008 of the manslaughter of Sean Nolan. The trial got a fair bit of attention, partly because it happened on Waterloo Road in posh Dublin 4 and partly because Finn’s mother Alix Gardener was a TV chef. I’ve written about it at length here as well so I won’t recap more than that. Anyway, the ruling was deferred before Christmas and as yet there’s been no word. Again I’ll write a post when there’s a judgement. It looks like it might be an interesting one.
Now that the dust has settled there’s time to catch up on all the stories I missed. I don’t think Lillis has gone away but at least there are no more crowds and things are getting more back to normal.