The jury started their deliberations at 2.29 this afternoon. It’s only a matter of time now until Eamonn Lillis hears his fate and the Cawley family hear what will happen to the man accused of killing Celine Cawley.
Jury waits are always tedious. There’s never anything to do. Well that’s not strictly true. When the jury goes out is the moment when most of the press benches are galvanised into action and start seriously working on their final verdict copy. If you’re writing for a daily there are usually two or three versions of the story, one for each outcome. It’s not quite so labour intensive if you work for a Sunday paper (unless the verdict comes on a Saturday afternoon of course) but the final wrap is a massive task nonetheless.
So the cables snake over to the plug sockets on the now empty barristers bench, the sweet papers accumulate on the press benches and the quiet of the almost empty courtroom is filled with the rustling of notebook pages. For everyone else it’s a matter of waiting. It’s the first time there’s been a big wait in the new Criminal Courts of Justice and there’s been much discussion about whether the benches in the Four Courts were more or less arse numbing than the hard edged, pale wooden planks that cut off the circulation in the backs of your legs if you’re unfortunate to get yourself into the wrong position.
The format at this stage of a trial is always the same. The jury retires after the Judge’s charge and the prosecution and defence teams have the opportunity to tell the judge what they think he missed out or failed to emphasise. Then the jury get called back and the charge is updated. This process took rather a long time today. It was almost half past three when they were called back.
Mr Justice Barry White clarified a couple of legal and factual points as he had been asked to do and told the jury again that it was up to them alone to determine the facts in this case. He told them that they should not feel he was trying to impose his will on them or that he was subtly hinting at a preferred verdict. He neither carried the sword for the prosecution nor the shield for the defence, he told them.
So the jury resumed their deliberations and the waiting began again. In the Four Courts there is a constant creaking and knocking, as you would expect in an old building. You spend half the wait on tenterhooks every time you think you hear a knock on the door that leads to the jury room.
Things are different in the new court house. The floors are carpeted, the building new and creak free. Then there’s the jury wrangler, he’s not called that but you get the general idea. He’s there to look after the jury and so this afternoon, a little after four he appeared with a folded piece of paper.
The jury had a question.
Well actually they had a shopping list of items of evidence to help them in their deliberations. They wanted a tape of the 999 call Mr Lillis made and a tape recorder to play it, the statements Jean Treacy and Mr Lillis’s daughter gave to gardai, the Rip Curl bag gardai found in the attic at Rowan Hill, filled with Mr Lillis’s bloodstained clothes and the bloodstained clothes found in Mr Lillis’s bedroom. They also wanted the transcript of Mr Lillis’s evidence in court and the report given by Deputy State Pathologist Dr Michael Curtis.
It’s never a simple list with juries. Half the things they requested were off limits, others logistically complicated. The jury had asked for the original garda statements given by Jean Treacy and the daughter. They weren’t evidence so the request was denied, although they have the option of listening back to the evidence they gave in court. They also asked for the transcript of Mr Lillis’s evidence – something only the judge has access to.
So they were sent home for the night. Before we reconvene tomorrow morning the courts services will decide whether or not there is portable access to the 999 call or the recordings of the evidence given in court by Ms Treacy, Mr Lillis, his daughter and Dr Curtis. If the jury can’t listen back in their room we’ve a long day ahead of us while they listen back in the courtroom.
So the wait will continue tomorrow. Mr Lillis will have longer to wait to hear his fate.
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