A man accused of murder during a row about a chihuahua should be found guilty of manslaughter, his barrister told a jury at the Central Criminal Court today.
Patrick Marrinan SC was making his closing speech in the trials of Wayne Cluskey (25), and Josh Turner (24) both of Mooretown, Ratoath, Co Meath. Both men have pleaded not guilty to the murder of Christopher Nevin at Tailteann Road, Navan on November 19, 2015.
Mr Cluskey's barrister Shane Costelloe SC asked the jury for a full acquittal. Speaking first on behalf of Josh Turner (below), Mr Marrinan said that he does not expect his client to walk free from court, but that "there is quite a bit of evidence that my client had lost it completely." He told the jury that if his client was provoked by Mr Nevin to the point where he could no longer control himself the proper verdict is not guilty of murder but guilty of manslaughter. He also said that his client could have been acting in self defence after Mr Nevin threatened him with a hatchet in his hand.
The trial has previously heard that a dispute arose when Josh Turner loaned Mr Nevin a male chihuahua to breed with three females but only one of the dogs got pregnant.
Going through the evidence in the trial, Mr Marrinan said the prosecution relied on CCTV that captured the "awful" events, and the evidence of a friend of the deceased, Wayne Casserly. Mr Marrinan said a turning point in the trial came when Mr Casserly revealed that his "good friend", Mr Nevin, was carrying a hatchet when he answered the door to Josh Turner.
Without that information, he said it would look as though the two accused set out to kill Mr Nevin, but with it, "the case changed dramatically." It now seemed that the fight started because of Mr Nevin, he said.
He said there was no evidence for the prosecution's claim that there was previous "friction" between the accused and Mr Nevin, although there was evidence that Mr Turner had been promised money or pups in return for the loan of the dog.
Pointing to the evidence of Mr Nevin's wife Lisa and Mr Cluskey's girlfriend Alex O'Driscoll, he said the day was a normal day. The two accused had arranged to meet Mr Nevin at Mr Casserly's house, something that was normal for all of them.
The two men arrived and parked in their usual spot and Josh Turner knocked on the window. Mr Marrinan said there was no evidence that Mr Nevin took hold of the hatchet because he needed to defend himself. "His best friend Wayne Casserly said this was just a normal, ordinary day," he said, adding, "there is not a scintilla of evidence that Christopher Nevin (below) had cause for concern for his safety." It was in these circumstances that Mr Nevin answered the door carrying a hatchet. He said they had heard evidence that Mr Nevin was "roaring and shouting" and threatening to kill Josh Turner.
At that point Wayne Cluskey came into the picture carrying an axe and ended up in a fight on the ground with Christopher Nevin. Mr Marrinan said Josh Turner had done nothing wrong at this point, but he described as "horrific" what happened next when his client, holding an axe, can be seen "hitting down on the head of Christopher Nevin" as he grappled with Wayne Cluskey.
He asked the jury to consider why his client acted the way he did, adding that the only evidence is that he was reacting to Mr Nevin appearing with a hatchet and threatening to kill him. He further asked the jury to consider what was going through his mind when he "savagely killed" Mr Nevin, a man he considered a close friend.
He concluded: "I suggest that the proper verdict is not guilty of murder, guilty of manslaughter."
Mr Costelloe told the jury that the proper verdict for his client would be one of not guilty, but that a manslaughter verdict is open to them. He said Wayne Cluskey was defending Josh Turner when he "barrelled into" Christopher Nevin after hearing Mr Nevin threaten his friend whilst holding an axe.
He added that although Mr Cluskey (above) can be seen striking Mr Nevin twice with the hatchet, neither of these blows contributed to his death. He further stated that the prosecution had not proven that Mr Cluskey had agreed with Mr Turner to kill Mr Nevin. Therefore, he said there is no basis for the prosecution's claim that they were involved in a joint enterprise.
Justice Patrick McCarthy will complete his charge to the jury tomorrow (Wednesday) before the nine men and three women begin considering their verdicts.