Man to appeal life sentence for beating grandfather to death
A man jailed for life for beating a grandfather to death in Waterford four years ago has moved to appeal his conviction.
Patrick Keating (51), with a last address at Moyne House, Grattan Quay, Waterford, had pleaded not guilty to the murder of Joe O'Brien at an apartment on William St, Waterford on April 23, 2012.
A jury at the Central Criminal Court sitting in Waterford found Keating guilty of murder and he was given the mandatory life sentence by Mr Justice Patrick McCarthy on October 18, 2013.
Keating moved to appeal his conviction today on grounds that the trial judge “effectively” reversed the burden of proof.
Counsel for Keating, Seán Guerin SC, said medical evidence from the State Pathologist contradicted the evidence of the prosecution's witness Mr Anthony Marshall.
Mr Marshall described seeing Keating stomping on O'Brien's head and striking the back of his head with a dumbbell.
However, there was no evidence of a fractured skull or an external injury to the back of the head, Mr Guerin said.
The trial judge, in his instructions to the jury, said there was no evidence “one way or the other” and "we are not medical experts”, Mr Guerin said.
The trial judge said a fracture wasn't found and “whether that is significant or not is a matter for the experts, not a matter you or I could rely on.”
Mr Guerin said the judge was telling the jury that the absence of medical evidence as to the injuries Mr Marshall said Keating inflicted on the deceased was “a matter for the experts”.
In that one sentence, the trial judge undermined the defence case to challenge the evidence of Mr Marshall on the basis that it wasn't supported.
Mr Guerin said the trial judge should have told the jury that, given the dispute about Mr Marshall's evidence, it was a matter for the prosecution to prove.
“Instead of saying that, he told them on the contrary that it simply wasn't a matter for them.”
“Effectively there was a reversal of the burden of proof,” Mr Guerin submitted.
The court heard that two women who were present in the apartment on the night in question had pleaded guilty to manslaughter.
Counsel for the Director of Public Prosecutions, John O'Kelly SC, said the main issue was whether a skull fracture was found but that “simply doesn't hold water”.
Mr O'Kelly said the evidence from the pathologist was that Mr O'Brien suffered “very severe head injuries” and there was evidence that Keating “did all of those things”.
Keating agreed he stomped on Mr O'Brien's head and agreed he punched him, Mr O'Kelly said.
The fact that there was no fracture to the back of the head did not mean Mr Marshall was an unreliable witness.
Mr O'Kelly said the trial judge's instructions to the jury were perfectly adequate.
Mr Justice Goerge Birmingham, who sat with Mr Justice Garrett Sheehan and Mr Justice Alan Mahon, said the court would reserve judgment.