10 Aug 2022

Man who admitted killing best friend when he was a teenager has murder conviction upheld on appeal

Man who admitted killing best friend when he was a teenager has murder conviction upheld on appeal

A man who admitted stabbing his best friend to death when he was a teenager has lost an appeal against his conviction for murder. 

Graham McEvoy (20) of Captain's Road in Crumlin had admitted stabbing Paul "Paulie" Curran (23) at Seagull House on Crumlin Road in Dublin on July 16, 2016, but denied it was murder. 

During garda interviews, McEvoy said he had met the deceased at Seagull House to sell him half an ounce of cocaine, but when he asked for his money Mr Curran allegedly pulled a knife and tried to slash him. In the scuffle that followed they slipped to the floor and McEvoy said he took the knife from Mr Curran and stabbed him.

McEvoy's barrister, Barry White SC, argued that his client was acting in self defence but used excessive force and should therefore be convicted of manslaughter and not murder.

The prosecution said the three knife wounds to the backs of Mr Curran's legs, that the pathologist said went in an upward direction, showed that the deceased was trying to get away rather than scuffling on the ground.

McEvoy was found guilty by a Central Criminal Court jury in a majority 11-1 verdict that was reached after eight hours of deliberations. He was accordingly given the mandatory life sentence by Mr Justice Patrick McCarthy on December 18, 2017. 

He moved to appeal his conviction on the principal ground that the jury were invited to speculate on the issue of motive, in relation to something a witness had said in her evidence. 

During the trial, a female witness gave evidence via video link that McEvoy phoned her on the day in question and told her he wanted to see the deceased because "someone had said something to him". McEvoy told her, the witness said, that he "nearly got a stripe down his face over Paulie".

An additional statement from a garda explaining his understanding of "got a stripe" was subsequently adduced in evidence. To the garda, the term meant "a cut or a slice across the face that leaves a scar".

Counsel for McEvoy, Michael Bowman SC, submitted that the trial judge erred in allowing the prosecution to explain the term as it led to speculation on the issue of motive. Mr Bowman said the jury would have been left with the impression that the killing was "some form of a revenge attack" despite a lack of evidence. He said emphasis was placed on this issue by the prosecution in their closing speech such that the issue of motive became central to the prosecution's case.

Dismissing the appeal on Thursday, Ms Justice Isobel Kennedy said the court was satisfied that the evidence was admissible. The purpose of the garda's clarification was simply to explain the term "got a stripe".

The clarification went no further than simply explaining the term having regard to the context in which it was used. Ms Justice Kennedy said it was arguably unnecessary as a jury might be assumed to understand the term, in the context it was used, anyway.

Ms Justice Kennedy, who sat with President of the Court of Appeal Mr Justice George Birmingham and Mr Justice John Edwards,  said there was nothing to suggest his trial was unsatisfactory or that his conviction was unsafe. The appeal was therefore dismissed.

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