15 November 2014 No Comments by The Northern Standard

THE JURY in the trial of a 22-year-old man accused of the manslaughter of Monaghan teenager Jason McGovern retired yesterday to consider their verdict. Mark Donnelly, of Greencastle Road, Omagh, Co Tyrone, has pleaded not guilty to charges of manslaughter and affray. He has also denied assaulting 19-year-old Mr McGovern, a native of Tydavnet. A key witness in the trial, which began last week, said the Monaghan man struck his head on the ground after being struck by one punch from Mr Donnelly.

The jury at Dungannon crown court had also been told that CCTV footage appeared to show Jason McGovern attempting to be a “peacemaker” before he was attacked. The incident had happened in Omagh town on New Year’s Eve 2012, and Mr McGovern was found dead at a friend’s house on the following day. The cause of his death was given as bleeding to the brain that had resulted from a fractured skull. During the trial, Donnelly had broken down while telling the court that claims that he was the one who struck the fatal blow were simply not true. When asked in cross-examination why he had given “no comment” interviews to police, he said this was what his solicitor told him to do.

He also said he did not tell lies about not being involved in an initial incident outside the Terrace Bar, in which CCTV footage had subsequently shown him to be present. He had simply said what he recalled. In summing up, prosecuting counsel Ciaran Murphy QC said Mr Donnelly had kept quiet while being interviewed in order to avoid implicating himself. He could not face up to what he had done, and was “blanking out” what had happened at the Weigh Inn car park. Mr Murphy pointed out that the main witness, Ms Shannon Skelton, had given evidence of seeing the accused strike Jason and hearing the thump as the victim’s head hit the ground. The defendant was right in front of her and she knew him. But defence barrister Adrian Colton said there were flaws in Ms Skelton’s evidence that could not be explained.

The case was essentially one of identification, and people could make genuine mistakes about what they saw, he stated, arguing that his client could not therefore be convicted beyond a reasonable doubt. The judge told jurors yesterday that they should not allow their judgment to be clouded by sympathy they would naturally have for the young man who lost his life.

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