The jury in the trial of Michael Scott, who denies murdering his 76-year-old aunt by driving over her in an agricultural teleporter, has been told that it is too early for them to return a majority verdict.
Ms Justice Caroline Biggs on Monday responded to a number of questions from the jury, which began its deliberations last Friday.
Ms Justice Biggs said that the best verdict is a unanimous one and the jury “must return a unanimous verdict at this stage”.
She said majority verdicts can be considered at a later stage, but added: “We are nowhere near that stage yet”. A majority verdict, she said, would be accepted “after a number of days in a case like this”.
Ms Justice Biggs also outlined the legal principles that apply in the trial. She said that the accused enjoys the presumption of innocence and therefore the burden of proof lies with the prosecution.
The prosecution, she said, must prove its case to the standard of beyond a reasonable doubt. Any doubt, she said, cannot be frivolous, irrational, manufactured or fanciful but must be based on reason.
She said there is no doubt that Mr Scott was the cause of his aunt’s death, but for a murder verdict the jury must be satisfied beyond a reasonable doubt that at the time he ran over her, or the “nanosecond before that,” he intended to kill or cause serious injury to her.
If the jury has a reasonable doubt about his intent, if it reasonably could have been an accident, they must acquit him of murder and then consider a verdict of manslaughter.
For a manslaughter verdict, she said the jury must be satisfied that Mr Scott was driving in a “grossly negligent” way. If the prosecution has failed to prove murder or manslaughter to the required standard, Ms Justice Biggs said the jury must acquit.
Mr Scott (58) of Gortanumera, Portumna, Co Galway has pleaded not guilty to murdering his aunt Christina ‘Chrissie’ Treacy Treacy outside her home in Derryhiney, Portumna, Co Galway on April 27th, 2018.
The prosecution case is that Mr Scott deliberately reversed over Ms Treacy following a long-running dispute over land. Mr Scott’s lawyers have told the Central Criminal Court that her death was a tragic accident.
The trial has heard that Mr Scott told gardai that he was reversing the teleporter across the yard outside Ms Treacy’s home when he felt a “thump” and thought he might have struck a trailer.
He said he rolled the machine forward to level ground and when he got out of the cabin he found Ms Treacy lying on the ground.
Leasing of land
The trial also heard that Ms Treacy and her brothers farmed about 140 acres at Derryhiney and that she owned another farm at nearby Kiltormer. Following the deaths of Ms Treacy’s brothers, Michael Scott came to own half the land at Derryhiney and Ms Treacy owned the other half. She leased her land at Kiltormer and Derryhiney to Michael Scott.
In early 2017, Mr Scott did not bid to continue leasing the land from Ms Treacy in Kiltormer when it went up for auction. Witness Regina Donohue has told the trial that by Christmas 2017, the deceased had made an application through her solicitor to split the land at Derryhiney.
On the day that Ms Treacy died, Mr Scott was to receive a letter from an agricultural consultant telling him that Ms Treacy was applying for a single farm payment on land she owned but had previously leased to Mr Scott.
The jury has spent four hours and 17 minutes deliberating and will return to the Central Criminal Court on Tuesday.