THE trial of an Askeaton man who is charged with dangerous driving causing the death of a married couple in West Limerick almost three years ago, collapsed due to difficulties with a juror in the trial.
Michael Harty, aged 29, of St Mary’s Terrace, Askeaton had pleaded not guilty to the charge, which relates to a collision at Ardtomin, Askeaton at around 5.45pm on July 29, 2009.
Maurice Hartnett (61) and his wife Margaret (59) died after the van they were travelling in was in collision with another vehicle on the R518 between Rathkeale and Askeaton.
Opening the prosecution case at Limerick Circuit Court John O’Sullivan BL told the jury that Mr and Mrs Harnett, who were from Gurteen, Ballingarry, were travelling in the direction of Rathkeale when the collision happened.
He said the accident happened on a “bad stretch of road” where there are a number of bad bends.
The jury of seven men and five women heard from a number of witnesses and were shown maps and photographs of the scene of the collision.
However, following lunch the foreman told the judge that one of the jurors knew some of the parties involved in the case.
After discussing the matter in the absence of the jury, Judge Carroll Moran decided he would discharge the jury.
In doing so, he told the jurors it is important that every case is conducted in accordance with the law and he said there must also be a perception that everything is done according to the law.
“It is a basic tenant that a jury and jurors do not know anything about the case or the parties involved,” he said.
The judge commented that the case was “particularly sensitive” and he said it was “upsetting, disappointing and frustrating” that it could not proceed as planned.
Judge Moran apologised to the accused man for the delay and he also apologised to the family of Maurice and Margaret Hartnett, who were sitting in the public gallery throughout the proceedings.
The case was adjourned until July 24, next when a new trial date will be fixed.