21 May 2022

UPDATE: Jury given permission to return majority verdict in trial of woman who killed her three children

The judge said sufficient time had elapsed to allow a majority verdict

Jury considering their verdict in Dundalk taxi driver murder trial

Jury given leave to return majority verdict

The jury in the trial of Deirdre Morley, who is accused of murdering her three children, has been told they may return a majority verdict on which ten of them agree.

Mr Justice Paul Coffey told the ten men and two women that sufficient time has elapsed to allow the court to accept a majority rather than a unanimous verdict. The foreman of the jury said that they have "some more questions" that they wish to put to the judge later this afternoon when they have had time to construct them.

The jury returned to their deliberations at 14.10 having spent three hours and ten minutes considering their verdicts since yesterday.

Earlier today (Thursday) the jury asked for clarification on the special verdict of not guilty by reason of insanity.  Mr Justice Coffey told them that Ms Morley admits that she committed the acts that caused her children's deaths but her legal team argue that she ought not to be held responsible by reason of insanity. To return the "special verdict", the judge said, the jury must be satisfied on the balance of probabilities that Ms Morley was suffering from a mental disorder when she killed her children and that she either did not know the nature and quality of her acts, did not know what she was doing was wrong, or was unable to refrain from committing the relevant acts.

He told them the expert evidence of consultant psychiatrists Dr Brenda Wright, called by the defence, and Dr Mary Davoren, for the prosecution, is that Ms Morley was legally insane when she smothered her daughter and two sons. The doctors also agreed, Justice Coffey said, that due to her mental illness Ms Morley was unable to refrain from her actions and did not know that what she was doing was wrong.

"The expert evidence you have received is all one way," he said. "The doctors are unanimous that the accused was legally insane when she smothered her children. There is nothing to put against the doctors' opinions that insanity applies to all three counts."

He told the jury that the prosecution is not seeking a murder conviction and the case is "unusually free from controversy of any kind." It is a case, he said, in which it is agreed that the special verdict of not guilty by reason of insanity should be returned on all counts. The judge sent the jury back to continue their deliberations, saying: "I hope that is clear to you Mr foreman."

The 44-year-old, of Parson's Court, Newcastle, Co Dublin, has pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity to the murder of her sons Conor McGinley (9) and Darragh McGinley (7) and her daughter Carla McGinley (3). The children's bodies were discovered at the family home just before 8pm on January 24 last year.

In his closing speech, defence counsel Michael Bowman SC said the overwhelming evidence in the case was in accordance with the psychiatric evidence and the two psychiatrists were in agreement that the appropriate verdict was not guilty by reason of insanity.

The case was a "tragedy of enormous proportions", he said, visited upon parents that were utterly committed to the welfare of their children. He highlighted that the tragic loss of three young children's lives was at the core of the case. Ms Morley had committed her entire professional life to the care of children as a paediatric nurse and had suffered from depression and anxiety since the late 1990's, he said.

"Despite the best efforts of those around her and the level of support they offered, it was not enough to prevent her slipping into an area from which she could not return," he concluded.

In his initial charge to the jury, Mr Justice Paul Coffey said there was no contest in this "sad and tragic case" about what the correct verdict should be. He said the evidence was all one way and both the prosecution and defence agreed that the defence of insanity applied.

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