James “Chuck” Connors has been found guilty of the murder of Wexford man Jason Ryan (27). Mr Connors (29), with an address in Drinagh, County Wexford, stood accused of stabbing Jason Ryan to death on the 25th of January, 2012. Connors had pleaded not guilty to the charge.
Mr Connors will now serve a mandatory life sentence for the murder.
During the trial, which began last month, the court heard how the two men got into an altercation outside of Mr Ryan’s apartment in Hollyville Heights in Wexford Town. When gardai arrived at the apartment, they found Mr Ryan lying on a couch with multiple puncture wounds to his torso. Mr Ryan was taken to Wexford General Hospital, where he passed away a number of hours later.
During his closing speech at the Central Criminal Court in Dublin, Prosecution Counsel Gerard Clarke SC told the jury that Mr Connors had murdered Mr Ryan because he was in a relationship with his ex-girlfriend Samantha Hore. It was the prosecution’s case that Mr Connors had intentionally lured the deceased away from the CCTV cameras in Hollyville Heights before stabbing him five times with a kitchen knife.
According to the defence counsel, Michael Delaney SC, Jason Ryan was the aggressor and James Connors was acting in self-defence. During his summary, Mr Delaney told the jury that Mr Ryan had attacked Mr Connors with a metal-studded baton and that his client had fought back using a knife that he had taken from the waistband of Mr Ryan’s trousers.
During the closing speeches, Prosecution Counsel Gerard Clarke SC denied James “Chuck” Connors’ claims that Mr Ryan had brought the knife to the scene. According to Mr Clarke, the accused brought the knife to his ex-girlfriend’s apartment with the intention of inflicting injury on Mr Ryan. Mr Clarke also pointed to evidence from Dr Stephen Clifford, which showed that the knife in question had DNA from Ms Mary Connors on the handle. Mr Clarke told the jury that the accused had spent the previous day at Ms Mary Connors’ house.
Mr Clarke said: “Mary Connors’s DNA, we say, should convince you that the knife came from her house. How else would her DNA get on the knife? We say that Chuck Connors brought that knife with him.”
In response, defence counsel Michael Delaney SC questioned how the accused could have carried the knife around over the course of the evening without anyone seeing it. He also pointed out that Mr Connors’ DNA evidence was not found on the knife, saying that this was consistent with short-term contact with the knife.
During her charge to the jury, Justice Margaret Heneghan said that they had a choice between three verdicts: Guilty of murder, not guilty, or not guilty of murder, but guilty of manslaughter. She also said that the jury must consider the defence’s case that Mr Connors’ was defending himself. Justice Heneghan informed the jury of five women and seven men that they must return a not guilty verdict if they felt that Mr Connors’ was acting in self-defence and that he had used reasonable force while doing so.
Today, Mr Connors was found guilty of murder by a majority of ten to two. As a result, Justice Heneghan sentenced him to life in prison.