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Garda murder Killer Aaron Brady lodges appeal against conviction on 46 grounds

Brady was found guilty of the murder of Det Gda Donohoe by an 11 to one majority jury verdict at the Central Criminal Court on August 11 last year.


Aaron Brady

Aaron Brady

Aaron Brady

Aaron Brady, who was sentenced to life imprisonment for the murder of Detective Garda Adrian Donohoe, has lodged an appeal on 46 grounds against his conviction.

Brady lodged his appeal on October 22 last and his grounds of appeal were submitted on December 3. It is expected that the 29-year-old's full appeal hearing will not take place before October and could last up to five days before the three-judge court.

Aaron Brady was found guilty of the murder of Det Gda Donohoe by an 11 to one majority jury verdict at the Central Criminal Court on August 11 last year.

Last October, the father-of-one with a last address at New Road, Crossmaglen, Co Armagh was sentenced to the mandatory term for murder of life imprisonment with a minimum time served of 40 years.

Brady was also sentenced to 14 years for the robbery of €7,000 - a sentence that will run concurrently with the life sentence - at Lordship Credit Union in Bellurgen, Co Louth on January 25, 2013.

One of the most important grounds of the 46 is likely to be a decision by the trial judge Mr Justice Michael White to refuse to allow the defence to call evidence regarding what they saw as possible witness inducement by Homeland Security in America.

The controversy arose after gardai disclosed thousands of files to Brady ahead of his trial. Among the files, Brady's lawyers discovered a recording of a conversation between Special Agent Matt Katske and Brady's best friend, who is also a suspect (Suspect A) in the Lordship robbery.

Special Agent Katske works for Homeland Security and at the time of the recording, in July 2017, he was attached to the British Embassy. Gardai were still building their case against Brady with members of the National Bureau of Criminal Investigation regularly travelling to New York hoping to speak to people who had information that might help to finger Brady as the gunman.

Katske had travelled to Belfast to intercept Suspect A at George Best Airport. Suspect A covertly recorded the conversation and later sent a digital copy of that recording to Agent Katske who in turn sent the recording to the then senior investigating officer in the Brady investigation, Pat Marry, now retired but a detective inspector at the time.

The recording was muffled and often difficult to understand but Brady's senior barrister Mr Michael O'Higgins SC said there was evidence on it that Agent Katske was offering to help Suspect A's brother in return for information about Brady.

Suspect A's brother was living in the US and had fallen foul of immigration authorities.

Among the snippets of conversation that could be heard was Katske saying: "He's being removed, he's going home, I can find plenty wrong with his paperwork."

He could also be heard saying: "If he puts Aaron Brady away you will probably never hear from me again. I can't do anything for him until he commits to doing something for us in this case."


Garda Adrian Donohoe

Garda Adrian Donohoe

Garda Adrian Donohoe

Mr O'Higgins argued that this was clear evidence of Homeland Security offering something in return for information on Brady. He also pointed to an internal Homeland Security email that was disclosed which stated that another potential witness should be sent home if he didn't provide a statement to gardai about Brady.

Mr O'Higgins wanted this introduced to the jury to show that one of the key State witnesses' in the trial, Daniel Cahill, may have been subjected to similar inducements and threats by Homeland Security. Cahill was living as an undocumented visa over stayer in New York at the time and gave a statement to gardai at Yonkers Police Department after being taken from his home by members of Homeland Security.

Both Cahill and Special Agent Mary Ann Wade denied that any threats were made or inducements offered. Mr O'Higgins said that the evidence of inducement relating to other potential witnesses might undermine Mr Cahill's credibility on that issue.

However, Mr Justice White ruled that the jury should not hear the covert recording or be told of the alleged inducement of other witnesses. In his judgment he said the issue of whether Cahill was offered an inducement was a "collateral" one and therefore evidence could not be called in relation to it.

It is a long standing principle in Irish law that issues that are not directly related to the central issue in a trial are characterized as collateral and cannot be allowed to derail the process by causing it to become unfeasibly long and drawn out.

The issue of inducement may have been collateral to the prosecution case but Brady's lawyers said it was central to the defence case.

Another issue likely to form a ground of appeal was the evidence of Molly Staunton. Ms Staunton was initially expected to travel from her New York home to Dublin to give evidence but that plan was scrapped when Covid 19 swept through New York.

The extent of the lockdown there was such that plans to have her give evidence via video link from a government building also had to be scrapped. In the end she gave her evidence from her apartment despite complaints by Brady's defence that the scenario took away from the proper gravitas of a criminal trial.

When Ms Staunton finally gave evidence she was twice interrupted by a man in her apartment who told her, among other things, "no more testimony "and "tell them what you are supposed to tell them".

In one dramatic incident Ms Staunton was interrupted at a critical point in her evidence and could be heard arguing with the man before her laptop suddenly shut down.

The key part of her evidence was that she heard Brady admit that he "shot a cop" while he lived in Ireland. Brady's lawyers argued that the jury would see the interruption as prejudicial against their client and even though there was nothing to suggest the man was acting on Brady's behalf, they said he could no longer get a fair trial.

The judge ruled that the issue could be dealt with by a warning from him that it may be dangerous to rely on Ms Staunton's evidence.

Towards the end of the trial Brady's senior counsel Mr O'Higgins complained about the evidence of Special Agent Wade. In particular Mr O'Higgins criticized a "letter of scope" that the agent had been issued by her employers which prevented her from talking about the immigration status of certain witnesses, including Daniel Cahill.

Mr O'Higgins said the agents used the letters of scope to prevent "anything that would put them in a bad light coming out."

He said such latitude has never been shown to a witness in the history of the State, adding: "The idea that witnesses would come to court and say, here are a load of things we agree are relevant but I'm not going to answer questions about them.

"That idea is so out there that nobody has ever had the temerity to come into a court of law as a pivotal witness and announce what areas they are going to discuss and what areas they are not going to discuss."

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Online Editors