A homeless man who stabbed his friend to death on O’Connell Street in Dublin will be sentenced to life in prison after being found guilty of murder by the jury’s unanimous verdict in the Central Criminal Court on Thursday afternoon.
amien Singleton (31) homeless, pleaded not guilty to murder but guilty of the manslaughter of Peter Donnelly (39), a native of Kilkenny, in O’Connell Street on 11 June 2019.
The case centered on Singleton, who was under a cocktail of drugs and alcohol at the time, was able to form intent to kill Mr. Donnelly, who is required for a murder conviction.
The jury dismissed the defense case that Singleton was so drunk at the time he was unable to know what he was doing or was unable to know the consequences of his actions.
At the trial, a threatening audio message found on Mr. Donnelly’s phone had been played and it was the state’s case that this, along with how Singleton interacted with the deceased at night, should be considered by the jury.
Prosecutor Lorcan Staines SC had said the stabbing was “fierce and devastating”, adding that less than an hour earlier Singleton had sent a voice message to Mr. Donnelly saying “I promise, I’ll cut your fucking throat. Don’t get caught. I’m about to slaughter you. You’re dead. “
“This is exactly what he did. This is murder, pure and simple,” said Mr. Staines in his closing speech to the jury.
On Thursday, the jury of six men and five women handed down a unanimous verdict of guilty after four hours and 23 minutes of deliberations.
Judge Deirdre Murphy has adjourned the case for the mandatory life sentence to December 3, when the court hears a statement on the victim’s impact.
It was the second trial in Singleton after the first crash last September. The first trial was abandoned after one of the jurors believed he had heard gardaí discuss the witness statements in court.
At that hearing, the prosecution’s attorney told the court that gardaí “absolutely did not discuss the statements of the witnesses” in the courtroom, but presented that the jury had to be discharged due to the impression formed by them that one of the their members had heard the discussion.
The trial learned that Mr. Donnelly died of stab wounds to his aorta and jugular vein in the early hours of June 11, 2019, caused by a knife Singleton wore in his sweatpants.
The court also heard that the two men were in each other’s company for three nights prior to the murder.
At noon on June 10th, Mr. Staines said that Mr. Donnelly took a bus to Kilkenny to collect his benefit, which was distributed at a social welfare office there. At 4pm, Mr Donnelly took a bus to Dublin and got off near O’Connell Street.
The prosecution attorney told the court that Mr. Donnelly was “out and about” in the O’Connell Street area from 6:00 pm on June 10th and was with a woman until about midnight.
In his closing speech to the jury on Tuesday, Mr. Staines said there was no problem that Singleton had killed Mr. Donnelly because a guilty plea was filed.
Staines said the question for the jury was whether or not Singleton had formed intent to “kill or cause serious injury” when he twice stabbed Mr. Donnelly in O’Connell Street.
He said Mr. Donnelly made “repeated and obvious attempts” to get away from Singleton overnight. “There is no self-defense in this case, you don’t see that Mr. Donnelly is aggressive, he was carrying a bottle of Coke,” Staines said, referring to the CCTV as seen by the jury.
It had been the case of the accusation that the provocation had not arisen and that “the only problem was the intent”, regarding the murder charge.
Mr. Staines stated that “in law” being intoxicated by drugs or alcohol was not a defense and that it was only applicable if the defendant was unable to know what he was doing or was unable to know the consequences of his actions.
The court heard that Singleton had a 30-minute conversation with Garda Nicola Torsney, who was on patrol on O’Connell Street, in which he discussed his family, his relationships, his trip to England and his qualifying results. . He had embraced the Garda and thanked her for having listened to it.
A few minutes later, Gda Torsney heard screams and saw Singleton, Mr. Donnelly and a woman.
Garda got worried and instructed the radio to say these two males had to be observed, “he said.
“Following his instructions, the CCTV cameras moved to follow these two males,” he said.
The lawyer said the defendant had previously discarded the knife in a bin, but was later seen by surveillance cameras removing something from the bin.
He then approached Mr. Donnelly, who provoked the knife attack outside “Dr Quirkey’s Good Time Emporium”.
Defense attorney Michael Bowman SC had alleged that his client did not use drugs or alcohol as an excuse and that Singleton had already pleaded guilty to the manslaughter of a Mr. Singleton’s father.
Bowman said that both the defendant and the defendant moved in “similar and difficult circumstances”.
Mr. Bowman had argued that Singleton’s possession of the knife in his belt was mentioned by the prosecution in a “narrow perspective” and asked the jury to “step back”.
He said that Mr. Donnelly knew Singleton was carrying the knife and that Gda Torsney knew Singleton had been the victim of an attack that saw his “face cut”, leaving him with a scar extending from his forehead to his chin.
The lawyer argued that the benefit of the doubt in criminal jury trials “was not to give the lift to a scoundrel, nor to save a scoundrel” but that the jury had to side with the defense, albeit a reasonable deduction in favor Singleton’s was less likely than the prosecution’s.
Mr. Bowman had described the defendant and the deceased as “close friends, fighting through addiction”, adding that there was no “murderous intent” in Mr. Singleton towards his “friend”.
He said his client had even given Mr. Donnelly 50 euros that day and wished him the best as the deceased boarded a bus to collect his welfare payment.
Upon examination by a physician, it was found that alcohol, morphine, benzodiazepine, and cocaine were in Singleton’s system overnight.
Mr Bowman said that during the conversation with Gda Torsney at night, Singleton’s “emotions were ebbing and flowing from anguish, to pride, to sadness.”
Gda Torsney, however, had told the trial that she did not believe Singleton was drunk at the time of their conversation.
Mr. Bowman described his client as “on an emotional roller coaster” and that he was “even unaware that he had cocaine in his system”.
Mr. Bowman claimed that his client’s mind was “polluted, tainted with a cocktail of alcohol and drugs” and that it was “barely consistent” when he was arrested.
Mr. Bowman had argued that while the case was “distressing and tragic,” his client’s state of mind meant that Mr. Donnelly could not have formed the intention to kill Mr. Donnelly and that his “guilt lay in the manslaughter, not murder. “
In her indictment to the jury Wednesday, Ms. Justice Murphy said it was up to the jury to decide whether intoxicating “drugs and / or alcohol” had rendered Mr. Singleton unable to form the intention to kill Mr. Donnelly, which the defense had supported at the process.
At around 11 am after the stabbing, a doctor, while seeking consent for injury surgery to Mr. Singleton, found him “inconsistent, beside himself,” the judge said.
Judge Murphy said that if the jury had doubts about Singleton’s ability to form intent, then “the answer is manslaughter, but if there is no question, the verdict is murder.”
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