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Court case Judge tells jury 'provocation' is most significant issue in Naas baseball bat murder trial

Justice Michael White was giving his charge to the jury following a trial of more than four weeks at the Central Criminal Court

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The judge in the trial of a man, charged with murdering a 20-year-old with one blow of a baseball bat, has told the jurors that the most significant issue for them is provocation.

Justice Michael White was giving his charge to the jury following a trial of more than four weeks at the Central Criminal Court.

Zoltan Almasi (49), a Serbian man with an address at Harbour View, Naas, has pleaded not guilty to murdering Kildare man Joseph Dunne, but guilty to his manslaughter at Harbour View on May 16 2014.

Mr Dunne died after receiving a blow to the back of his head, shattering his skull and driving the bone in towards the brain.

The trial has heard that Mr Dunne had banged on or jostled Mr Almasi’s van, which was parked outside his home. The truck driver then chased Mr Dunne away with a baseball bat. He says that he didn’t realise that he had struck him with the bat until he later saw an ambulance and garda car in the area.

Mr Almasi’s barrister, Barra McGrory QC, suggested in his closing speech on Tuesday that the force with which he had wielded the bat could be evidence that he had lost control, one of the elements of the partial defence of provocation.

However, Caroline Biggs SC, prosecuting, said that the deceased was running for his life, retreating and no threat to his killer, who she argued struck him in anger.

Justice White began his charge to the jury on Wednesday morning.

“A young man lost his life in tragic circumstances,” he said. “And a man of no previous convictions is on trial for it.”

He told the jurors that they would have to be dispassionate in their deliberations.

“The issue that will be most significant for you is the defence of provocation,” he said, explaining that the jury must be satisfied that Mr Almasi intended to kill or seriously injure Mr Dunne before considering provocation

“Where he acted under the influence of provocation, his crime will amount to manslaughter and not murder,” he said.

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The judge explained that the provocation must have temporarily caused Mr Almasi to lose control to such an extent that he ‘ceased to be master of himself when he killed Mr Dunne’.

He said there had to be such a complete overwhelming loss of self-restraint that Mr Almasi could not stop himself inflicting this deadly violence.

The provocative act is required to be outside the ordinary bounds of any ordinary interaction acceptable in our society, he said.

Justice White said that provocation would not apply in situations where ordinary people, sharing the same fixed characteristics as the accused, would be able to exercise self-restraint.

“There are degrees of provocation and there are degrees of reaction,” he said. “Such total loss of self-control to the degree of intentional use of fatal violence must be genuine.”

He explained that it was for the prosecution to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defence of provocation had been rebutted. Otherwise, the proper verdict would be not guilty of murder but guilty of manslaughter.

Justice White spent much of the rest of the day summing up the evidence, and will continue his charge tomorrow before sending the jury out to consider a verdict.

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