A Tipperary man who was hanged over seventy years ago for a murder he didn’t commit is to receive the first posthumous pardon from the state.
Hatrry Gleeson was convicted of murdering Moll McCarthy whose body he found in a field in New Inn in 1941. Despite his pleas of innocence, he was sent to the gallows in Mountjoy Jail.
It has since emerged that the prosecution had withheld information in Mr Gleeson’s trial, encouraged witnesses to hand over falsified statements, beating one, and ignored an alibi for their suspect.
There have been a number of campaigns to prove Mr Gleeson’s innocence and win him a pardon. The Gleeson case also led to a campaign for the abolition of capital punishment.
In 1940, Mr Gleeson walked into a garda station in New Inn to report his discovery of a dead body. Moll McCarthy was lying in a field having suffered two shotgun blasts to the face.
But instead of just reporting the discovery, Gleeson found himself as a suspect and was later tried and convicted despite his protestations of innocence.
Now, he is to be cleared of the crime decades after it took place in a dramatic development representing the dedicated work of the Griffith College based Irish Innocence Project and the Justice for Harry Gleeson group.
Part of a global organisation of the same name, the project was formed here in 2009 with the mandate of unearthing new facts in cases where there is a belief a miscarriage of justice has taken place under the remit of the Criminal Procedure Act 1993 and the posthumous pardon procedure.
“Nothing can adequately comfort those who have fought to exonerate Harry Gleeson but this posthumous pardon and the clearing of the good name of Mr Gleeson is a proud moment for everyone involved,” David Langwallner, dean of law at Griffith College and Project director said in the aftermath of their success.
The Department of Justice had received a submission on the case last year, claiming several threads of new evidence, much of which had been compiled by the Justice for Harry Gleeson Group which subsequently contacted the Project.
The case review found the prosecution had successfully withheld crucial information highlighting discrepancies in their case (in particular relating to the registration of the firearm); that gardaí encouraged witnesses to lie and beat one. Forensic evidence from a US pathologist also proved Mr Gleeson had an alibi.
“This case was a tragic miscarriage of justice and the hanging of Mr Gleeson for a murder he never committed is a dark stain on the memory of the State,” said Professor Diarmuid Hegarty, president of Griffith College.
“However his posthumous pardon shows that justice is not blind to injustice.”
The Irish Innocence Project currently has 21 students from Griffith College, Trinity College and Dublin City University working on approximately 25 further cases under the supervision of eight lawyers working on a pro-bono basis.