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Joe O'Reilly's bid for freedom hinges on evidence book in jury room

O’Reilly was convicted in 2007 of murdering his wife Rachel.

Joe O'Reilly during the murder trial in 2007.
Joe O'Reilly during the murder trial in 2007.
Image: Albert Gonzalez/Photocall Ireland

THE STATE HAS begun its bid to stop Joe O’Reilly attempting to have his conviction for murder ruled a miscarriage of justice.

O’Reilly – who was convicted in July 2007 of murdering his wife Rachel at their home in north Dublin – was present in the Court of Appeal for today’s hearing.

Rachel’s family, including her parents Rose and Jim Callaly, were also in court.

He was granted free legal aid in November 2012 to take a miscarriage of justice case by the Court of Criminal Appeal.

O’Reilly’s appeal focuses on a specific point relating to the trial’s book of evidence being present in the jury room on the fourth day of the murder trial.

The incident had been discussed during the trial with both prosecution and defence agreeing with Justice Barry White that the trial should continue.

The judge had said to the jury at the time:

“I must ask, did any one of the 11 of you read the book of evidence.”

The foreman of the jury responded on the behalf of the jury, “not to my knowledge, no.”

Brendan Grehan SC for the DPP told the court today that no application was made by O’Reilly at the time to discharge the jury.

Grehan argued that “not only was the decision clearly made at the time” but “effectively you’d have anarchy if you took one position at the time and then afterwards take a different position.”

O’Reilly’s latest appeal argues that he wasn’t provided with enough information about the incident during the trial to make a decision on what action to take.

Counsel for O’Reilly, Patrick McGrath SC, today argued that the foreman answered on behalf of the jury but the members did not answer individually.

McGrath further argued that no inquiries were made as to what portions of the documents had been left in the jury room and how they had gotten there.

The three-judge panel, led by Justice Sean Ryan, put it to McGrath that the primary matter to be considered was whether or not the jury members had read the book.

“The key question was whether the jury was contaminated as to whether they had access to the documents,” Justice Ryan told the court. “Logically, how could it matter what’s in a book if I haven’t looked at it.”

O’Reilly is currently serving a life sentence for the murder and previously lost an appeal against his murder conviction in 2009. Chief Justice John Murray had said its grounds were not well founded.

In August 2012, another bid for freedom failed after he attempted to argue that his detention at the Midlands Prison in Portlaoise was unlawful.

The DPP is now seeking to block O’Reilly from having his miscarriage of justice case from being heard.

A decision on whether his case will proceed has been reserved and will be given at a later date.

Read: Murderer Joe O’Reilly in fresh court bid for freedom >

Read: ‘I would forgive my daughter’s killer…if he’d shown any remorse’ >

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About the author:

Rónán Duffy

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