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Omagh one-punch trial: Jury discharged after they fail to reach verdict over Jason McGovern killing

By Michael Donnelly

Published 05/06/2015

Jason McGovern died the day after a one-punch attack in Omagh
Jason McGovern died the day after a one-punch attack in Omagh

Co Tyrone man Mark Donnelly will learn later this month if he is to face a trial for the fourth time for the one-punch unlawful killing of 19-year-old Co Monaghan teenager Jason McGovern, after a second jury in the case failed to reach a verdict today.

The Dungannon Crown Court jury of seven men and five women had been deliberating for over four hours, over two days, as had the last jury, before returning to tell Her Honour Judge McReynolds that they reached a stalemate which could not be resolved with further time.

The jury, by way of a note, had earlier indicated that they were "unable to make up a majority verdict of ten", as required by law. Judge McReynolds, while asking the jury to continue deliberating, said "if at any time your collective view is that your are hopelessly divided, you should return to court to indicate that".

They returned to court just over half and hour later to confirm, what they had put again in writing that they were "still unable to make a majority verdict".

The jury forewoman was then formally asked if they had reached, or could reach a verdict in the case, to which she answered, "no".

Unlike the last occasion, there were no gasps from those in court eagerly awaiting the jury's decision. This time the verdict was received in near pin drop silence. Donnelly himself sat in the dock, showing no emotion, looking straight ahead, blinking.

Judge McReynolds, who indicated it would now be up to the Public Prosecution Service to decided on whether or not Donnelly will face a re-trial, gave prosecution QC Liam McCollun until June 19 next. However, he said he was unsure if such a decision could be made by then.

The 23-year-old former motorcross ace, from Greencastle, between Omagh and Cookstown, who denies the 2012 New Years' Eve manslaughter of the teenager, was released on continuing bail.

Mr McGovern was found dead in the Co Monaghan home of a friend in the village of Mullan hours after the attack. A postmortem later revealed he had a fractured skull and died from resulting bleeding on the brain.

During this third trial, the second was aborted for legal reasons, Donnelly maintained that he was an innocent, wrongly identified by flawed witnesses as being the man in the white shirt who threw the killer punch which ultimately led to Mr McGovern's death hours later.

"I would say she (the witness) is mistaken .... its not true," Donnelly had said in his own defence.

However, the prosecution, in their case, claim that the Tyrone man was a "cowardly liar", prepared to do "anything to save his own skin" because he just cannot face up to being the person responsible for the teenager's death, and had tried to distance himself from it.

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