BY ALISON O’RIORDAN
A CORK Prison inmate found guilty of murdering a fellow prisoner in May of last year has been remanded in custody for sentencing on November 7th.
Waterford native Brian Veale (31), of Dominic St, Cork had pleaded not guilty of the murder of Graham Johnson, of 3 Ardán, Bandon, in the kitchen of Cork Prison, Rathmore Road, Cork city on May 16th 2015.
On Wednesday, a jury of seven men and five women found Veale guilty by unanimous verdict, following deliberations lasting one hour and 56 minutes.
Ms Justice Isobel Kennedy thanked the jury for their time and exempted them from jury service for a period of 15 years. ‘Thank you for your care and attention throughout the trial. It was very apparent you concentrated hard on the evidence,’ she said.
Ms Justice Kennedy remanded Veale in custody until November 7th, when a victim impact statement will be before the court.
The four-day trial heard that Veale stabbed Mr Johnson in the kitchen of Cork Prison after an argument over switching television channels.
Both men were inmates at Cork Prison and they knew each other. The verbal altercation between the two men took place at around 3pm on May 16th and then finished but sometime after 5pm that same day Veale came across the kitchen with a knife and stabbed the deceased in the chest area.
State Pathologist Dr Marie Cassidy gave evidence in the trial and told the jury that Mr Johnson died from a single stab wound to the front of the chest.
In summing up at the end of the trial, defence counsel, Mr Tom Creed SC, told the Central Criminal Court jury that the prosecution had to prove that Mr Veale killed Mr Johnson ‘unlawfully’ and that ‘fear’ was at the heart of the matter.
I’m not going to insult your intelligence and say that perhaps Mr Veale didn’t kill Mr Johnson,’ he said. ‘If you are satisfied that Mr Veale killed Mr Johnson, the issue you are looking at is intent.
‘You will understand that a prison is in a confined space. We know that Mr Johnson imposed himself on Mr Veale and he left the area. The evidence is that the accused was white with fear.
‘The prosecution has to prove there was not an issue of self-defence and I say they have not gone anywhere near to doing this. I suggest to you that the only reasonable verdict is manslaughter.’
Mr Tim O’Leary SC, prosecuting, gave his closing speech earlier and said the defence of self-defence in this case was ‘conjured up’. ‘There is overwhelming evidence that self-defence can’t possibly arise,’ he said.
‘The knife was there, Brian Veale took it and killed Mr Johnson. I ask you to find the accused guilty of murder,’ said Mr O’Leary.
Earlier, Detective Garda James O’Reilly, who was involved in interviewing Mr Veale at Mayfield Garda Station on May 22nd, had told Mr Derek Cooney BL, prosecuting, that Section 18 (1) a of the Criminal Justice Act 1984, as amended by the Criminal Justice Act 2007, was invoked in two interviews with Mr Veale.
This section allows a court or jury to draw inferences from an accused’s failure or refusal to account for an object, substance or mark, or any mark on such object, found on his person, on his clothing, in his possession or in the place of arrest.
Det Gda O’Reilly agreed with Mr Cooney that the accused man replied, ‘No comment,’ when he was asked to account for the blood-stained knife and the blood on his own clothing, shoes, left hand and forearm, and again when gardaí asked him to account for his ‘blood-stained kitchen clothing’ – which matched the DNA of the deceased – which were discarded in the bin of his cell.
On Monday, Mr Ray Cummins, who was in Cork Prison in May 2015, told counsel that Mr Veale was left fearful of returning to his cell after a verbal altercation with Mr Johnson, who ‘went up into Brian Veale’s face and called him out the back’ after the argument over switching television channels.
The witness agreed with Mr Creed that this appeared to him to be ‘an act of aggression’ as he was calling Mr Veale ‘out the back to fight him’.
The court heard that the accused went ‘pale white’ when this happened and walked away while Mr Johnson continued watching television.
The defence asked Mr Cummins if the accused had requested him not to go back to his cell at around 4pm because he did not want to talk to the deceased.
‘He was fearful that Graham would do something to him,’ said the witness.
Mr Patrick Heaphy, also serving a sentence in Cork Prison in May 2015, gave evidence which backed this up.
‘Graham Johnson wanted to watch a horse race and Brian Veale wanted to watch soccer. Graham threatened Brian that he was going to batter him and he wanted him to step outside,’ said Mr Heaphy.
Also on Monday, another inmate, Ming Feng Chen, gave evidence that, after Mr Johnson had died, ‘He (Brian Veale) then smiled at me, called my name and said, “If I get a life sentence it doesn’t matter”.’