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Saturday 9 December 2023 Dublin: 11°C
burden of proof

No criminal charges will be brought over Berkeley balcony collapse

“There is a deep desire for this case to act as a lesson for other builders and avoid a tragedy like this from happening again.”

Updated 10.12pm

NO CRIMINAL CHARGES will be brought in the case of the Berkeley balcony collapse that saw six young people killed in California last June.

Following an investigation, the California District Attorney’s Office has confirmed that no charges are to be brought.

Berkeley Balcony Collapse AP / Press Association Images The scene of a balcony collapse in Berkeley last June. AP / Press Association Images / Press Association Images

This comes after findings by the Alameda County district attorney Nancy O’Malley.

A report published in the weeks following the tragedy by the City of Berkeley concluded that dry rot resulting from water damage led to the balcony’s collapse.

Speaking to RTÉ’s Drivetime this evening after the announcement was made, assistant DA Kevin Dunleavy said that “destructive testing” of the balcony found that there was negligence by many parties but not enough to lead to criminal charges.

“We came to the conclusion that there were many contributory causes to what went wrong here,” he said.

We found there was water encapsulation during the time of the building of this and that there was contributory negligence on the part of many different parties, many different contractors that were involved in the construction.

A civil case taken by 12 families of students either killed or injured will continue against the building’s owners, builders and designers.

Dunleavey, however, says that the burden of proof required to bring criminal charges is higher:

In the area of the criminal law the standard is much higher. We must show that any defendant that we charge acted with gross or reckless conduct. Kind of akin to a disregard for human life, and that the deadly consequences of those actions were reasonably foreseeable.

“We would have to prove that to 12 jurors unanimously and beyond a reasonable doubt. We just did not feel, with the number of different parties involved in this, that we could meet that burden,” he said.


In a statement this evening following the decision, Foreign Affairs Minister Charlie Flanagan said that his thoughts are with families and friends of those who died.

The minister went on to say that the department will “carefully consider the details of the District Attorney’s findings”:

While the District Attorney’s investigation did not find sufficient proof to take separate criminal proceedings, it has shone a vital light on the circumstances and factors that contributed directly and indirectly to the collapse of the balcony.
This investigation is an important step in a process, the ultimate objective of which is to ensure that a tragedy such as Berkeley never occurs again.

Students Lorcán Miller, Niccolai Schuster, Eoghan Culligan, Eimear Walsh, and Olivia Burke and her cousin Ashley Donohoe lost their lives in the tragedy at the 21st birthday party last year.

‘Act as a lesson’

Ashley’s family released a statement about today’s development, expressing their disappointment:

“The Donohoe family is very appreciative of the Alameda County District Attorney’s Office’s devotion of substantial resources to conduct a thorough and extensive investigation. The Donohoe family commends the DA’s Office for immediately announcing its intention to conduct an independent investigation when other agencies would not complete an investigation of this tragedy.

The Donohoes continue to grieve their loss and were hopeful that the DA would pursue criminal charges against those who were responsible for this tragedy. The Donohoe family’s disappointment stems from their belief that the criminal justice system would act as a deterrent for other corporations and builders to engage in similar grossly negligent behavior. There is a deep desire for this case to act as a lesson for other builders and avoid a tragedy like this from happening again.

“The Donohoe family feels there was a series of events that led to this tragedy which could have been avoided if the balcony was properly designed, constructed and inspected. The fact that construction companies and builders are allowed to enter into secret settlements is very concerning to the Donohoe family. They believe that this allows for companies to hide prior wrongdoings and that there may be other balconies or projects that have defects and are not being properly identified.

“The DA’s investigation has resulted in determinations and findings that appear to establish culpability for many of the defendants in our pending civil lawsuit.”

- With reporting by Michael Sheils McNamee and Órla Ryan

Comments are disabled because civil proceedings are pending. 

Read: Berkeley survivor Clodagh Cogley is now back in college >

Read: Families attend Berkeley balcony testing as legal battles loom >