A Hungarian national jailed for life for the murder of a 20-year-old Kildare man with a baseball bat must has lost an appeal against his conviction.
Zoltan Almasi (46) with an address at Harbour View, Naas, Co. Kildare had pleaded not guilty to murdering Joseph Dunne at his home address on May 16, 2014. It was the State's case that Mr Almasi attacked Mr Dunne with a baseball bat after the deceased had hit his white Mercedes van.
Almasi was found guilty by a majority jury verdict at the Central Criminal Court following 11 hours of deliberations, and was given the mandatory life sentence by Ms Justice Margaret Heneghan on March 16, 2016.
The Central Criminal Court heard that Almasi lived alone at Harbour View and worked for a courier company. He was born in Serbia but became a Hungarian national around 2007 and came to Ireland shortly afterwards.
Almasi lost an appeal against his conviction today, Thursday, July 26, which focused on whether the partial defence of provocation should have been left to the jury to consider.
His barrister, Dominic McGinn SC, said the one thing of value to Almasi, his van upon which his livelihood depended, was being damaged by “drunken yobs” outside his house.
Mr McGinn said there was a link between the “loud banging” on his client's van and what happened subsequently. He said it was common case that, at the very least, Almasi was in a rage at the time and this was mentioned by the trial judge in her ruling on the issue.
Whether that was enough to make him lose total self-control was a matter for the jury to assess, Mr McGinn submitted, and there was a concern the trial judge misdirected herself on whether there was an obligation on the defence to establish provocation.
Dismissing the appeal today, Mr Justice John Edwards said the Court of Appeal was satisfied that the trial judge did not apply too rigorous a standard in assessing whether the defence of provocation should have been allowed go to the jury.
Mr Justice Edwards said there had to be at least some evidence - sufficiently cogent evidence - that the accused may have acted in circumstances where, having been provoked, he had totally lost his self-control.
He said an accused must put forward "a credible narrative of events" and there must be sufficient evidence for a jury to find that it was a reasonable possibility that the accused totally lost self-control.
Mr Justice Edwards said the available evidence suggested, but did not establish, that Almasi had totally lost self-control. In the trial judge’s assessment, the evidence suggested the existence of a “rage” short of a total loss of self-control, and there was no basis for concluding the trial judge had erred.
Accordingly, Mr Justice Edwards, who sat with President of the Court of Appeal Mr Justice George Birmingham and Mr Justice John Hedigan, said the appeal was dismissed.