The Court of Criminal Appeal has reserved judgment on an appeal by Clare woman Sharon Collins against her conviction for soliciting and conspiracy to murder her partner and his two sons.
Collins, 46, of Kildysart Road, Ennis was sentenced to six years in jail in 2008 for soliciting a man to kill her partner PJ Howard and his two sons.
Her co-accused, Las Vegas poker dealer Essam Eid, was jailed for demanding money with menace and handling stolen property. The Court of Criminal Appeal has upheld his six-year sentence.
In the second day of the appeal, the court was told that the case was 'contaminated' from the beginning.
Counsel for Ms Collins, Michael Bowman, told the court that evidence about the poison ricin, which was found in the prison cell of Eid, should not have been put before the jury.
He said the toxin had not been preserved to allow the defence carry out its own tests.
The ricin was raised early on in the trial and was 'sold' to the jury as pertinent evidence and described as the most deadly poison known to man.
Mr Bowman said it added another layer of severity and caused the jury to think 'murder, murder, murder' from the start. He said it was like putting a dirty grey sock in a washing of best white shirts.
He also said the last-minute introduction of Eid's wife, Teresa Engle, as a witness meant she went from 'zero to hero'.
Until a short time before the trial, she was not to feature as a witness but suddenly became the most important witness of fact. He said the defence was not given sufficient information about Ms Engle in time to properly cross-examine her.
He said the charge of soliciting was put in as an 'add-on' and was put in as a safety net. However, the way in which the conspiracy charge was framed assisted in relation to the soliciting charge.
The State is not standing over the conspiracy charge because the jury acquitted Eid on the same charge. It is, however, standing over the conviction for soliciting a killer.
Counsel for the State, Tom O'Connell, told the court that the jury was adequately directed by the trial judge.
He said the jury was asked a simple question: 'did Sharon Collins ask Essam Eid to kill the Howards?' The jury answered yes.
He said there was a mountain of evidence from which the jury could properly conclude that Eid was Tony Luciano - the hitman for hire. It was never raised by the defence at the time of the trial that Tony Luciano was anyone other than Eid, he said.
Senior counsel Una Ní Raifeartaigh, also for the State, said the evidence of Ms Engle related mostly to Eid and was irrelevant to Collins' appeal.
She also said the purpose of the ricin evidence was to show Eid had a serious plan to kill. The jury had rejected that by acquitting him on the conspiracy charge so it was impossible to say the ricin evidence was used against Collins.
She said the prosecution never sought to tie Collins to the ricin and juries had to be trusted to distinguish between different pieces of evidence.
The 32-day trial in 2008 heard that Collins used the name 'lying eyes' to search the internet for a hitman to kill her partner PJ Howard.
The trial was told she hated him because of his unusual sexual preferences.
The trial heard she also obtained a fake marriage certificate because Mr Howard's two sons, Niall and Robert, stood in the way of her inheriting his wealth.
Mr Howard gave evidence in support of Collins and had urged the judge not to send her to jail.
The three-judge appeal court said judgment would not be given until after Easter.
Eid appeal rejected
The appeal court rejected an appeal by Sharon Collins' co accused Essam Eid against the severity of a six year sentence.
Mr Justice Joseph Finnegan said while one view might be that Sharon Collins conduct was more reprehensible than Mr Eid's the court had to view the attitude of the legislature to the offences.
The offence of which Mr Eid was convicted - demanding money with menace - carried a maximum sentence of 14 years.
The offence of conspiracy to murder carried a maximum sentence of ten years.
Therefore, he said, while Mr Eid's sentence was the same, it was much lower down on the sentence scale for that offence.
The court ruled that the six year sentence imposed on Mr Eid should stand and said the ‘sentence fits the crime’.
The court said it could be some time before it delivers judgment on the appeal against conviction by Sharon Collins.