Stephen Silver, who denies murdering Detective Garda Colm Horkan, was not psychotic and was not suffering from delusions at the time of the shooting, a psychiatrist has told the trial jury.
The Central Criminal Court trial is now entering the final stages following the close of the defence case, the jury also heard on Monday.
Mr Justice Paul McDermott told the seven men and five women that the final stage will involve closing submissions by lawyers for the prosecution and defence followed by the judge’s charge in which he will set out the legal parameters by which the jury will decide the case. He said this stage will take “a number of days” and will commence on Tuesday.
Mr Silver accepts that he shot and killed Gda Horkan but Dr Brenda Wright, a psychiatrist called by his defence, said that the accused was suffering at the time from a mental disorder that diminished his responsibility. Professor Harry Kennedy, who was called by the prosecution, disagreed with Dr Wright and said that Mr Silver’s mental capacity was intact at the time of the killing.
Mr Silver (46), a motorbike mechanic from Aughaward, Foxford, Co Mayo has pleaded not guilty to the murder of Det Garda Horkan knowing or being reckless as to whether he was a member of An Garda Siochana acting in accordance with his duty. He pleaded guilty to manslaughter by reason of diminished responsibility, at Castlerea, Co. Roscommon on June 17th, 2020.
On the final day of evidence in the trial, Professor Harry Kennedy told defence counsel Roisin Lacey SC that in killing Gda Horkan, Mr Silver carried out a complex sequence of actions which are evidence of his capacity to form an intent.
He said Mr Silver had described how he gained control of Gda Horkan’s gun during a struggle, pulled the trigger, used the butt of the gun to strike Gda Horkan on the head and tried to strike him a second time.
Mr Silver said he then saw Gda Horkan fall to the ground and he, Mr Silver, held the gun with his right hand outstretched and his left-hand supporting. He then described pulling the trigger a number of times, aiming at the trunk rather than the head or feet.
Prof Kennedy said there were a range of options open to the accused, including firing into the air or throwing the gun away. He added: “From a psychiatric point of view, the capacity to carry out those complex sequential actions is evidence of his capacity to form intent to do those actions.”
Pulling the trigger
Ms Lacey put it to the witness that “shooting a gun is simply pulling a trigger”. Prof Kennedy replied: “It’s not just the act of using your index finger but of holding it, aiming it, firing it again and again, deciding where to aim and fire. It’s the perception, understanding and reasoning, all those things, actions, mental appraisals, appreciation of the situation, all of that.”
Prof Kennedy said that a person suffering from delusions might believe they are commanded by god and therefore their options are limited.
In the absence of such “delusional psychotic limitations of choice,” he said, “the situation is the same as for anyone else.” Mr Silver, Professor Kennedy said, was not psychotic and was not suffering from delusions at the time of the shooting.
He said he considered whether anger or fear or strong emotions might make a difference to choice but added: “They don’t make a difference to the ability to make choices. Strong emotions are normal in a struggle or a fight, that is always the case.”
He said he had considered whether Mr Silver was in the relapse of mental illness but found “many examples of Mr Silver being able to perceive, make decisions and form intentions and act on those intentions.”
He said that immediately after the shooting Mr Silver refused to be handcuffed around the back but allowed gardai to handcuff him to the front.
“He is able to negotiate by introducing choices he has come up with,” Professor Kennedy said, adding that this was immediately after the shooting and is therefore “most relevant”.
He said that all the information available to him indicated that Mr Silver had not relapsed or that he might have had some “very early minor signs or beginnings of a relapse but nothing to impair his capacities to the extent relevant here.”
Professor Kennedy was the final witness in the trial.