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File photo. Aaron Brady. Paddy Cummins
Court of Appeal

Aaron Brady's lawyers claim integrity of trial breached when key witness interrupted by unseen man

Aaron Brady was jailed in 2020 for a minimum of 40 years for the murder of Detective Garda Adrian Donohoe.

THE INTEGRITY OF the trial of Aaron Brady, who was convicted of murdering Detective Garda Adrian Donohoe, was “well and truly breached” when a key witness giving evidence from New York was interrupted by an unseen man, who told her to “stop it right now”, before the video link was “dramatically” cut, the Court of Appeal has been told.

Father-of-one Brady, who was jailed in 2020 for a minimum of 40 years for the murder of the detective, is bidding to overturn his conviction in a six-day hearing before the Court of Appeal.

On the fourth day of the hearing before the three-judge appeals court senior counsel Fiona Murphy, representing Brady, said the trial court erred in refusing an application by the defence to discharge the jury after witness Molly Staunton was seen arguing with an unknown male in circumstances where he appeared to be directing her testimony.

Murphy argued that the lack of regulation and manner in which Staunton gave her evidence has no place in a country which holds itself to the highest standard in criminal trials.

Counsel submitted that to say what happened in this instance fell short of the “gold standard” was an understatement, that the criminal trial was “fundamentally flawed” and any deficiencies in regulation had to fall at the feet of the State.

Murphy said the defence position at trial was that it did not matter what direction was given to the jury, this infirmity could not be cured.

She added: “For the prosecution to have been successful on the capital murder charge and to put the gun in the hand of Aaron Brady, the two US witnesses were essential.”

Witness Staunton was initially expected to travel from her New York home to Dublin to give evidence but that plan was scrapped when Covid 19 swept through New York.

The extent of the lockdown there was such that plans to have her give evidence via video link from a government building also had to be scrapped. In the end she gave her evidence despite complaints by Brady’s defence that the scenario took away from the proper gravitas of a criminal trial.

Staunton told the murder trial that Brady said he had to “carry around the guilt of having murdered a cop in Ireland”.

Staunton said in her direct evidence that Brady also claimed during a drunken “rant” to be “the most feared man in Ireland”.

However, under cross examination Murphy had put it to Staunton that the accused was concerned and upset that gardaí were looking for him in relation to the shooting but that he never made any admission to having carried out the shooting of Detective Garda Donohoe. The witness replied: “That’s correct.”


When Staunton gave her evidence she was twice interrupted by a man who told her, among other things, “put a stop to it, no more testimony” and “tell them what you are supposed to tell them”. In one dramatic incident Staunton was interrupted at a critical point in her evidence and could be heard arguing with the man before her laptop suddenly shut down.

The key part of her evidence was that she heard Brady admit that he “shot a cop” while he lived in Ireland.

Brady’s lawyers argued that the jury would see the interruption as prejudicial against their client and even though there was nothing to suggest the man was acting on Brady’s behalf, they said he could no longer get a fair trial.

The judge ruled that the issue could be dealt with by a warning from the judge that it may be dangerous to rely on Staunton’s evidence.

Today’s submission

Counsel for the appellant submitted today that no one had any idea where Staunton was when she was giving her evidence in June 2020, that there was very little concern for the regulation of the evidence itself and a “let’s get on with this” view was adopted by the prosecution and the court.

Counsel for the appellant went on to say it was apparent that Staunton was under pressure from the man in the room and a jury viewing this could have had a concern that the disruption was at the hands of Brady.

“The idea that someone could be upstairs and have someone shouting at them and the court wouldn’t demand to know what was going on. On every occasion this is brushed aside, it goes to the very heart and integrity of the evidence and the trial,” she submitted.

The appellant also said it was the State’s position that nothing could be done for Staunton as she was giving her testimony in exceptional times yet no safeguards were put in place for her.

“The height of what is done is a letter is sent to Ms Staunton as to the regulation of the evidence,” she said.

Furthermore, Murphy said the court had an opportunity to stop Staunton giving her evidence and to return the next day when somebody could have stood outside the room where she was giving her testimony from.

Michael O’Higgins SC, also representing Brady, said this event was a contempt in the face of the court and if the court was “so limp and impotent” in finding out what had happened in this situation then it had no business continuing the trial.

In addition, Murphy said it was difficult to see how Staunton could have been viewed as a reluctant witness and that it was wrong and inappropriate to make the witness hostile at that point in proceedings. She said reasons should have been given as to why this witness was deemed hostile and this was not done.

In reply, Lorcan Staines SC, for the Director of Public Prosecutions, said the decision to declare Staunton a hostile witness was a discretionary matter for the trial judge and should not be interfered with by the appellate court. The State will reply to all grounds concerning Staunton once the appellant has finished that part of the appeal.


Aaron Brady (32) previously of New Road, Crossmaglen, Co Armagh, is serving a life sentence with a 40-year minimum having been found guilty in 2020 of murdering Detective Garda Adrian Donohoe (41) at Lordship Credit Union in Bellurgen, Co Louth on 25 January 2013.

Brady was also sentenced to 14 years for the robbery, a sentence that will run concurrently with the life sentence.

Detective Garda Donohoe was on a cash escort when he was ambushed by a five-man gang and shot dead. The raiders stole just €7,000 in cash during the robbery, which lasted 58 seconds.

Brady’s trial was also the longest murder case in Irish legal history, lasting 122 court days.

He was found guilty of the murder of Detective Garda Donohoe by an 11 to one majority jury verdict at the Central Criminal Court in August 2020.

The father-of-one was sentenced to the mandatory term for murder of life imprisonment in October 2020. As he had been found guilty of murdering a garda acting in accordance with his duty, the trial judge ordered that he serve a minimum of 40 years.

The appeal continues tomorrow before Mr Justice John Edwards, presiding, Ms Justice Isobel Kennedy and Ms Justice Tara Burns.

Comments are closed as legal proceedings are ongoing. 

Alison O'Riordan