Almost three quarters of a century after being sent to the gallows for a murder he had nothing to do with, Tipperary man Harry Gleeson is to become the first recipient of a posthumous pardon from the State.
In 1940, Mr Gleeson walked into a garda station in New Inn, Co Tipperary to report his discovery of a dead body. Moll McCarthy was lying in a field having suffered two shotgun blasts to the face.
In the run up to his 1941 conviction for her killing - which then carried the death penalty - 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.
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 yesterday 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. It was compelling.
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.