The late Paddy Lyons of County Waterford and Ross Outram from County Tipperary
There is reliable evidence that a 90-year-old retired Waterford farmer was “alive and mobile” when murder accused Ross Outram left his home, a defence barrister has told a trial jury.
Despite the accused man being an "unattractive customer in very unattractive background circumstances", there were "very complex live issues in this case", counsel has said.
Michael O’Higgins SC, defending, continued giving his closing speech on Wednesday in the Central Criminal Court trial of Ross Outram.
Mr Outram (28) of Ferryland, Waterford Road, Clonmel in County Tipperary, has pleaded not guilty to murdering Paddy Lyons at Loughleagh, Ballysaggart, Lismore, County Waterford, at a time unknown between February 23 and 26, 2017.
A pathologist has given evidence that Mr Lyons suffered multiple blows to his head and neck from a blunt weapon, before his blood-smeared body was found slumped in his armchair at his home. The jury has heard medical evidence that Mr Lyons suffered a “stiffness or fusion” of his right shoulder during childbirth and could only keep it in one position.
Mr Outram told gardaí in interviews that he had “fought back” after Mr Lyons hit him with a walking stick and shovel, and that he had taken up to 100 Xanax that day. A pharmaceutical expert has told the jury that there is "no proof" that Mr Outram had taken Xanax.
The trial has previously heard that Mr Outram had injuries that included marks on his hands, bruising to the inside of his thigh and lumps on his head.
Addressing the jury for less than an hour on Tuesday, Mr O’Higgins argued that his client could not be made liable for "a fall" which saw Mr Lyons break his hip if it was unconnected to the original injuries inflicted on him by the accused.
Summarising his client's case, Mr O’Higgins said there was an altercation where Mr Lyons suffered injuries which caused a brain injury and bleeding but it did not cause his death. “What caused him to die is a second event where the deceased broke his hip when he fell,” said the defence counsel.
Mr O’Higgins submitted that if there was a doubt about causation in this case that would mean his client was not guilty of murder and it would not be open to the jury to convict him of manslaughter so everyone would go home.
However, the barrister said he was taking an unprecedented course of action and it was open to the jury to find Mr Outram guilty of assault causing harm if they found causation had not been made out.
There was a reasonable possibility that Mr Lyons fell after Mr Outram left his house, Mr O’Higgins said, adding that the more likely reason for the fall was that the deceased was concussed or had some head injury which caused him to lose his balance.
Mr O’Higgins continued his closing speech to the jury this morning and said a natural reading on all the evidence indicated that Mr Lyons was still standing after he bled from his head injuries, which meant his hip was not broken. “A shattering would not allow one to bear weight,” he added.
The barrister outlined that his client told gardaí in his interviews on two occasions that Mr Lyons was alive when he left the house because he [the deceased] had put on a grey hat. “That’s an unusual memory fragment and why would Mr Outram invent that detail?” he emphasised, adding that a garda had given evidence that he found a grey hat in the vicinity of Mr Lyons' fireplace.
Mr O’Higgins said this was “reliable and very strong evidence” offered by Mr Outram that Mr Lyons was alive and mobile when he [Mr Outram] left the house.
Counsel said he was “unapologetically” addressing the jury in regards to self-defence and they must leave their prejudices at the door concerning a 26-year-old against a 90-year-old man.
Mr O’Higgins said he knew it was “deeply unattractive” what his client was saying but this did not lessen the jury’s obligation to assess it. Mr Outram’s case is that he took an awful lot of Xanax and a number of matters flowed from that, he added.
Mr Lyons may not have been on a level playing field with the 26-year-old, said the barrister, but the jury could bring in a verdict of not guilty of murder but guilty of manslaughter if they were satisfied Mr Outram had used no more force than was necessary.
However, Mr O'Higgins said he was not advancing self-defence on the basis that if a person honestly believed the level of force they inflicted was necessary to defend themselves then they were entitled to an acquittal.
In conclusion, the lawyer said there were "very complex live issues" in this case despite his client being an “unattractive customer” in "very unattractive background circumstances".
Mr Justice Paul Coffey will continue charging the jury of eight men and four women this afternoon.