Killer to appeal conviction for shooting man who he blamed for brothers suicide and poisoning dogs

Killer to appeal conviction for shooting man who he blamed for brothers suicide and poisoning dogs

A convicted murder who claimed he accidentally shot the man he blamed for his brother's suicide and poisoning of his father's dogs has moved to appeal his conviction.

Michael Collins (34), with an address at Upper Kilmona, Grenagh, Co Cork had pleaded not  guilty to the murder of Packie Hogan (42) at Glen Road, Ballinaraha, Blarney, Co Cork on February 10, 2011.

Collins also denied possession of a rifle and possession of ammunition with intent to endanger life on the same occasion.

A Central Criminal Court jury sitting in Cork found Collins guilty on all counts and he was given the mandatory life sentence by Mr Justice Paul Carney on November 29, 2012.

Collins moved to appeal his conviction today on grounds that the trial judge's directions to the jury on manslaughter were defective.

Counsel for Collins, Michael Bowman SC, said his client had maintained at all times that he hadn't intended to kill the deceased but to scare him.

Outlining the surrounding circumstances of the case, Mr Bowman said Collins had a history of difficulty with the deceased man and blamed him for allegedly causing his brother's suicide over a drugs debt.

It would appear that on a number of occasions threats had allegedly been made to Collins and his family, Mr Bowman claimed, and the deceased was allegedly a man “capable of following through” on those threats.

Collins' father's dogs were poisoned and vehicles had been burned, Mr Bowman said. He had gone to the gardaí four days prior to the incident and “effectively communicated out of desperation the position he found himself in”.

He was “looking for help”, Mr Bowman said, and his parting remark to the gardaí appeared to be that he'll 'look after it' himself, counsel said.

Ballistics confirmed that the firearm was defective. It was accepted that there was a “hair trigger” on the firearm and it was capable of accidental discharge. It had no safety mechanism attached.

Mr Bowman said the firearm had discharged accidentally or prematurely when Collins came out of a ditch. He reloaded and advanced.

A shot was discharged into the car but Collins was “unaware he had actually struck” the deceased inflicting a fatal wound.

He stood still for a moment not knowing what to do next. As the two men ran from the car, Collins fired a shot into the air. “This was the intention from the beginning,” Mr Bowman said.

At trial, Collins' defence was that this was a “pure accident” - that a young man whose character was beyond blemish, Mr Bowman said, took this “bizarre” and “remarkable step” to generate fear in the deceased but the firearm discharged before he could “fulfill that end”.

Mr Bowman said the trial judge did not engage with the facts “as presented and agreed”.

The concern, he submitted, was that the jury looked at the facts without understanding the middle ground – a verdict of unlawful killing – and having rejected the preferred defence of accident, simply moved on to the next most obvious verdict – guilty of murder – without having unlawful killing properly explained to them, Mr Bowman said.

The judge's charge was defective in that regard, he submitted, and the verdict was undermined.

Counsel for the Director of Public Prosecutions, Timothy O'Leary SC, said there was ample evidence on which Collins could have been convicted of murder.

What happened was an “ambush”, Mr O'Leary said, and the evidence was “overwhelming”.

After the initial discharge, Collins “calmly” reloaded and fired “remarkably” at the one person he wanted to hit, into the car where the person he wanted to hit was sitting.

He said the Collins and his legal team were trying to “have their cake and eat it”.

It was not "a murder/manslaughter" case as was now being presented, Mr O'Leary said. It was always a "guilty/not guilty of murder” case, Mr O'Leary said, and the evidence was overwhelming once the jury accepted that it wasn't an accident because of the "calm reload".

At issue was Collins' state of mind at the time and whether he intended beyond a reasonable doubt to cause Mr Hogan death or serious injury, counsel submitted.

Mr Bowman responded to say that there was “no evidence of Collins doing anything calmly”.

Mr Justice Garrett Sheehan, who sat with Mr Justice Alan Mahon and Mr Justice John Edwards, said the court would reserve judgment.