By Brion Hoban
A man has been acquitted of the manslaughter of his mother’s partner who died days after an altercation involving the two men.
Ronan Byrne (31) was alleged to have fractured James Marren’s leg with a bat during an altercation.
A jury heard that days after the man’s leg was put in a cast at a hospital, a blood clot developed in his leg which travelled to his heart and this clot proved fatal.
Byrne, of Lohunda Downs, Clonsilla, Blanchardstown, Dublin, had pleaded not guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to the unlawful killing of Mr Marren (57) at that address on October 31, 2013.
He had also denied production of a baseball bat during a dispute and assault of Mr Marren causing him harm at the same address five days earlier on October 26, 2013.
The defendant’s mother, Mairead Byrne, and Mr Marren had been in a relationship for at least 13 years.
On the ninth day of the trial, the jury returned a unanimous verdict of not guilty on the charge of manslaughter.
The jury also returned unanimous verdicts of not guilty on the charges of assault and production of an article after deliberating for over three-and-a-half hours.
During the trial the defendant’s brother Cillian Byrne testified that he was aged 16 in October 2013 when his mother and Mr Marren came home from a day of socialising and were “a bit drunk”.
He told the trial that over the years he frequently saw Mr Marren turn into “a different man” when he was drinking whiskey.
He said the deceased would verbally abuse the defendant and often struck him or choked him.
Mr Byrne said the defendant was afraid of Mr Marren and would never hit back or speak up for himself.
He said Mr Marren was a strong man and was bigger than him or his brothers and that over the years he had often called gardaí to the home.
He said on the night in question, Mr Marren was calling the defendant “a scumbag” and telling him he was not a good father to his young daughter. He said that the defendant went into his own bedroom to check on his daughter and the deceased followed him.
Mr Byrne said there was a scuffle and he saw the two men then holding each other in a headlock and he tried to separate them.
Mr Marren ended up on the ground and the witness said he was holding him down and telling him to relax.
He said he did not want Mr Marren to get back up and attack the defendant again.
He told the jury that his brother had walked off and returned and was holding a wooden bat which he struck the deceased with around two or three times.
The witness said he was screaming and crying and he rang gardaí. He said the whole incident lasted about 30 seconds and afterwards the defendant left the house with his daughter.
Mr Marren was brought to hospital in an ambulance and came home the next day with his leg in a cast.
He spent the next three days resting and sleeping on a mattress on the ground floor of the house as the cast made it difficult for him to walk and to get upstairs.
Mr Byrne said that on the fourth morning, he saw Mr Marren getting pale in the face as they were having a chat.
The then teenager began to telephone an ambulance and was in the middle of doing so when he Mr Marren’s eyes go to the back of his head.
“I think he had a seizure. He died shortly after that”.
The witness said that Mr Marren was a different person when he was drinking and that when he was sober “he was good to me”.
Ms Byrne, the mother of the defendant, told the jury that Mr Marren would shout a lot at the defendant, but not her other sons.
She said she recalled Mr Marren assaulting and hurting her son the accused.
She said she thought the abuse started a few years after Mr Marren arrived at the house.
Ms Byrne agreed that Mr Marren discharged himself from hospital the day after the incident.
She said a couple of times he said he was not feeling well and she wanted to ring an ambulance, but he would not let her.
During an interview with gardaí, the accused man said he hit Mr Marren a couple times to the head and legs and that they could not have been “full swings” as the hallway was narrow.
He said he was holding the bat in two hands and that it was not heavy.
Gardaí asked why he needed to hold it in two hands if it was not heavy.
Mr Byrne said the deceased could have gotten the bat off him, that he was trying to defuse the situation and this was the first time he hit Mr Marren in the hundreds of times he had hit him.
Mr Byrne said the deceased had used objects to hit him in the past.
He said he did not specifically aim for the deceased’s head or legs, he just wanted to get him away from him.
He denied the deceased got him so angry that he lashed out with a bat and hit him “a fair few times”.
He said he was not particularly angry, that he just wanted to defuse the situation and get his child out.
Mr Byrne denied that he could have “boxed” Mr Marren, saying that a couple of “boxes” would not have been enough as the deceased was a strong man.
Dr Stuart Hamilton said he was asked to examine the report of the deputy state pathologist regarding their post-mortem examination of Mr Marren carried out on November 1, 2013.
He said he also examined photographs taken during the examination.
He said in his opinion, the cause of death of Mr Marren was that he sustained trauma to his right leg, which caused a deep vein thrombosis in his right leg, which caused a pulmonary embolism.
Dr Hamilton said that when a leg is injured, it is relatively immobilised by a cast and also trauma can cause the blood to get stickier.
He said as a result, a deep vein thrombosis develops, part of that clot becomes dislodged and travels through the right side of the heart and as it moves into the blood vessels of the lungs, it is a solid object that will not pass through a tube smaller than it is and will lodge.
Dr Hamilton said if it is accepted by the jury that the injury to the leg was sustained in the incident, then in his view there is “a direct chain of causation” from that injury to the development of the clot in the leg and therefore a direct chain from that injury to Mr Marren’s death from a pulmonary embolism.
Dr Hamilton agreed with defence counsel that the ideal situation to give the most informed opinion is where one examines the deceased themselves.
He agreed that pathologists can take different views as to what caused a person’s death.
He agreed that both himself and the pathologist who performed the examination agree that it was immobilisation of the right leg which caused the deep vein thrombosis. He agreed that the difference is that the other pathologist has offered immobilisation and a tight bandage as a cause of death.
Dr Hamilton went on to say that he could envisage the possibility that if a bandage was simply tighter right at the top of the calf or knee, that it could slow the blood flow in the veins and that sluggish blood flow does increase the risk of an abnormal clot forming.
Counsel for the defence asked whether it could be the case that this is one of those rare cases where the compression as a result of the bandage could be a contributing cause of death. Dr Hamilton replied he “cannot exclude that”.
Dr Hamilton agreed that deep vein thrombosis is extremely rare in itself and it is rarer still that someone would die from it. He agreed that death from it is not “foreseeable”.
In his closing speech to the jury, Philipp Rahn BL, prosecuting, said what the accused did “remains the substantial and operative cause” of Mr Marren’s death.
Mr Rahn said that Mr Marren baiting the accused, mistreating him or starting the fight is not a defence. He said it is clearly the case the accused could and should have got his child and gone when Mr Marren was restrained on the ground.
In his closing speech to the jury, Padraig Dwyer SC, defending, suggested the deceased man died of “a freak event” leading on from “a very ordinary injury”.
Mr Dwyer said the only purpose of his client striking Mr Marren was to stop him getting up so that his client could get out of the house. He said what was operating on his client’s mind was not just his own safety, but primarily the safety of his daughter.