A seven year sentence has been imposed on a Galway woman found guilty of the manslaughter of her former partner who was stabbed 18 times.
Maura Thornton (31) of Inverin, Connemara, stabbed US national Kevin Joyce (59) when he appeared uninvited at her apartment at 183 Upper Salthill on July 31, 2011.
At the beginning of her trial, which had been held at a Central Criminal Court sitting in Galway in late January, Thornton entered a plea of not guilty to the charge of murdering Mr Joyce. Following a five day trial and deliberations lasting a total of three hours and eight minutes the jury returned an unanimous verdict finding Thornton not guilty of murder but guilty of manslaughter. The sentencing in the matter was adjourned until this week when a victim impact statement could be made available.
The sentencing hearing took place at a Central Criminal Court sitting in Dublin on Monday but was further adjourned until yesterday when Mr Justice Barry White sentenced Thornton to 10 years in prison with the final three years suspended.
Mr Justice White described how the Joyce family had shown true humanity and Christianity when they asked the court to give Thornton a chance to change her life. However he added that the killing was a serious offence which all too frequently comes before the court where a person resorts to the use of a knife with fatal consequences.
In the victim impact statement Mr Joyce’s daughter Michaela described her father as being a forgiving man with a kind heart, and that like him, she believed Thornton should be given a chance to change the path of her life, heal herself, forgive herself, and leave violence behind her.
In considering the sentence, Mr Justice White noted how the jury in the trial had been merciful in convicting Thornton of manslaughter and that he too would take a merciful view. He pointed to her previous convictions for violence, assault, and knife crime as aggravating factors and while acknowledging her drink problem, he said this may offer an explanation for her behaviour but it was not an excuse.
During the course of the trial evidence was given that revealed how Thornton had been in a relationship with Mr Joyce for up to three weeks, but that this had broken down with Thornton claiming the deceased had been harassing her earlier on July 31. He came to the apartment for a second time later that night and the jury were told how Thornton “just lost it”, grabbed a kitchen knife, and went outside on to a roof area to confront Mr Joyce.
Deputy State pathologist Dr Khalid Jaber gave evidence that the primary cause of death had been “multiple stab wounds” with two fatal wounds which punctured the left pulmonary artery and lung. He also said there had been significant loss of blood as well as other contributing causes such as blunt force trauma (a fracture) to the left arm and an acute level of intoxication. The court had heard that Mr Joyce had 328mg of alcohol per 100ml of blood, making him over six times the legal limit for driving, and that the fracture to the arm would have made him incapable of defending himself.
During interviews Thornton had told gardai that she had been drinking all day, consuming cidar and whiskey, that she had not meant to kill Mr Joyce who had been obsessed with her, and that she just meant to scare Mr Joyce. Thornton told gardai she “intended to give him a few prods” but could not stop and did not know whether she had been “putting holes in him or the jacket”.