Mr. Harry Gleeson was poshumously pardoned 74 years after his conviction and execution for the murder of Mary McCarthy.
The government announced that is has decided to advise the President to exercise his right of pardon under Article 13.6 of the Constitution in respect of Harry Gleeson's conviction in 1941.
On 27 February 1941, Mr. Harry Gleeson was convicted of the murder, in November 1940, of Ms. Mary McCarthy. He was sentenced to death and executed on 23 April 1941.
Questions have been raised over many years regarding the validity of the conviction and therefore the Attorney General directed that the case be subject to final review by Mr. Shane Murphy SC which concluded that in his opinion there were deficiencies in the conviction such as to render it unsafe.
One of the deficiencies in the convictions pertained to inconsistencies in the medical evidence and the purported time of death. Although there was a degree of uncertainty at the trial surrounding the time of death, the prosecution's case was that Mary McCarthy was murdered on the evening of the 20th November 1940. Mr. Gleeson did not have an alibi for portions of the evening of the 20th November. Mr. Murphy considered that the medical evidence at the trial did not show beyond a reasonable doubt that the murder occurred on the evening of the 20th November but rather it was highly probable that Ms. McCarthy was killed on the 21st November. Mr. Gleeson had an alibi for the 21st November and witness evidence as to Mr. Gleeson's whereabouts on the morning of the 21st would have raised a reasonable doubt as to his guilt.
Another flaw was failure by the prosecution to comply with the prosecutorial obligation to assure a fair trial to the accused by taking a decision not to call Mr. and Mrs. Ceasar, the accused's uncle and aunt, to give evidence at the trial. The Ceasars, in whose home Mr. Gleeson lived, were material witnesses in relation to a number of issues in the trial. The Garda file suggests that the Ceasars were considered by the Gardaí to be truthful witnesses but that it was considered preferable that they would be called by the defence, thereby allowing the prosecution to cross-examine them and in so doing, to gain a tactical advantage. The Ceasars did not give evidence at the trial. This fact attracted judicial comment at the latter stages of the trial in a manner which was prejudicial to the accused.
Another failing was the apparent non-disclosure to the defence or to the Court and Jury of a Garda statement pertaining to a confrontation which allegedly occurred at the McCarthy’s farm during the Garda investigation between Mr. Gleeson and two of the McCarthy children, which statement, if it had been disclosed to the defence, would have suggested that the confrontation was an artificial construct instigated and staged by the Gardaí, in a manner calculated to unfairly prejudice the accused in the eyes of the jury.
Another failure by the prosecution to introduce evidence that the shotgun register tended not to support the prosecution's case that Mr. Ceasar had, in October 1940, purchased ammunition of a calibre consistent with the type of ammunition used to murder Mary McCarthy. This was material which ought to have been available to the jury.
More generally, Mr. Murphy concludes that, in his opinion, Mr. Gleeson was convicted and executed as a result of a case based on unconvincing circumstantial evidence.
The Government deeply regrets that a man was convicted and executed in circumstances now found to be unsafe and has remedied this by clearing his name of the conviction.
However, this decision leaves the brutal murder of Ms. Mary McCarthy unresolved, whose children were deprived of their mother in terrible circumstances.
The Government wishes to express its sympathy with both families and with all those affected by this crime and the subsequent conviction.