Psychiatrist told to 'take that smirk off your face' in trial of Kildare woman

Laura Kenna is accused of attempted murder

Conor McHugh

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Conor McHugh

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Psychiatrist giving evidence in trial of Kildare woman told to 'take that smirk off your face'

The case is being heard at the Central Criminal Courts

A psychiatrist who assessed a woman accused of attempted murder and her barrister clashed in court today, Friday, after the defence lawyer told the witness to "take that smirk off your face".

Dr Harry Kennedy was being cross-examined by counsel for Laura Kenna (37), Mr Barry White SC, on the fourth day of her Central Criminal Court trial. 

Ms Kenna (37), of no fixed abode, is charged with attempting to murder Fionnuala Burke on Lower Drumcondra Road, in Dublin, on January 3, 2017 and assault causing serious harm on the same occasion. Ms Kenna has pleaded not (NOT) guilty by reason of insanity to both counts and is on trial at the Central Criminal Court.

Dr Harry Kennedy has previously told her trial that while she "meets the criteria for schizoaffective disorder", at the time of the offence she was not delusional and carried out the attack in anger.

Defence counsel Barry White today asked Dr Kennedy if the defendant's claim during garda interviews following the assault that she was recording an album with a known record studio owner was evidence of delusion. Dr Kennedy said the person she named is real and does own a recording studio. When Dr Kennedy checked that person's facebook page he discovered that he did know Ms Kenna. The witness said there is evidence that what she said is "completely true".

There was a confrontation as Mr White asked the witness to "take that smirk off your face". Dr Kennedy replied that he was not smirking. "You appear to me to be smirking," Mr White said. The doctor added that there is evidence that Ms Kenna knew this music producer and he has no reason to doubt that what she said was true. "There is nothing to say it is delusional," he added.

Mr White pointed to questions and answers in the memo of interview, such as that she walked to Belfast, that she had been living outside the country, had only arrived from France the previous day and differing accounts she gave of the assault. Counsel suggested these answers showed disordered thinking and poor reasoning and judgment. Dr Kennedy said these were not evidence of thought disorder or mental illness but were examples of fabrications, banter, falsehoods and false accusations. They were, he said, "fabricated, misleading replies in her own interest."

Mr White said the answers she gave could be interpreted as showing delusional disorder and suggested Dr Kennedy had come in with a "fixed notion" and was acting for the prosecution rather than being objective. Dr Kennedy said it might be helpful to watch the video of her interviews which he said showed she was not "pressured" in her speech and did not make verbal mistakes. These, he said, would be indicators of schizoaffective disorder.

Mr White put it to him that he couldn't rule out the possibility that the answers were evidence of a mental disorder. Dr Kennedy replied: "I couldn't absolutely rule it out but it is very unlikely."
Dr Kennedy said further claims by Ms Kenna that she had made a music album were "outlandish" and "grandiose" but not delusional. He added that a person who is elated is usually pressured in their speech and can't get their words out fast enough. In her interviews, he said, the accused was "rather slow".

When the witness said some of the answers she gave were defiant rather than deranged, Mr White said Dr Kennedy was carrying a "sword for the prosecution" and taking the line that was "most damaging to Ms Kenna." The witness replied: "It is important to be impartial. The jury will decide on the facts."

Dr Kennedy said he also observed in videos of the garda interview that Ms Kenna had occasional outbursts of laughter. However, he said these outbursts were not inappropriate in a way that would suggest a mental illness but were rather ironic or sarcastic.

Ms Kenna signed one of her statements "Aphrodite" and told gardai this was a name she is now using. Mr White asked if it is usual for people to be calling themselves after Greek gods. Dr Kennedy said she told him she used that name because she called her boyfriend Zeus. She knew his real name and explained that she was using the name Aphrodite to "build herself up".
During her interviews Ms Kenna was asked if she had any remorse and she replied: "No, fuck her, fuck her. I should have sold the carcass and made money."

Dr Kennedy said this might be seen as in keeping with her delusional beliefs about vampires but added that her delusional beliefs about vampires are that she is being pursued or coerced by them.
The trial continues on Monday in front of Justice Tara Burns and a jury of six men and six women.