A Corowa man has been acquitted late on Wednesday afternoon of a stabbing murder two years ago on the grounds of self-defence.
Heath Kevin Parkinson had no choice, a Supreme Court judge has found, when he knifed Christopher Quirk in the back of the leg, severing his femoral artery and vein.
Mr Parkinson, Judge Stephen Campbell, SC, said, was himself close to death as a result of a frenzied attack by Mr Quirk, who went to the accused's Vera Street home armed with a knife and a bat to launch an attack.
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The Crown depended on a perceived opportunity for Mr Parkinson to decide to either not inflict a knife wound on Mr Quirk or to flee the scene as meeting the legal requirement for a case for murder being established.
Judge Campbell said clearly there was no such opportunity.
He pointed to forensic evidence that indicated Mr Quirk was either crouching or leaning over Mr Parkinson at the time he was stabbed in his leg from below.
Forensic pathologist Hannah Elstub had given evidence that the trajectory of the wound was consistent with an upward stabbing motion from someone lying below Mr Quirk.
Judge Campbell said Mr Parkinson, who pleaded not guilty to murder, had no opportunity to do anything but grab the knife and lash out after the blade had been dropped by Mr Quirk in the midst of his methamphetamine-fueled attack.
He said it could not also be expected for an ordinary person, especially in that moment, to have any concept of trying to kill someone in the knowledge of where their major organs or arteries lay.
"Mr Parkinson did not turn his mind to the infliction of grievous bodily harm when he (stabbed Mr Quirk); he was under severe attack by a determined man fueled by the insidious drug ice armed with a knife," Judge Campbell said.
"I'm not satisfied with any critical break in the proceedings to provide a realistic view for such an opportunity.
"Rather, the violent struggle continued ... until each of them was exhausted; probably by loss of blood."
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Ultimately, Judge Campbell relied on the wholly credible and consistent evidence of two witnesses; one, a neighbour who saw the fight between the two men on March 10, 2018, unfold before her from across the street and of a young woman who happened to be heading down the street at the time as she visited garage sales.
The evidence of Mr Quirk's ex-partner, he said, carried no credibility, nor did that of the two men who Mr Quirk brought along with him to Mr Parkinson's house in his support.
Judge Campbell said these men essentially acted as "cockatoo" for Mr Quirk, to warn of approaching police - both because of the knowledge they had that Mr Quirk was about to launch a vicious attack and the fact Mr Quirk would be breaching an apprehended violence order.
Mr Parkinson's co-accused, Adam Dennis Coates, was similarly acquitted, he of the charge of maliciously inflict grievous bodily harm with intent to murder, having pleaded guilty to a lesser charge of grievous bodily harm.
Judge Campbell ruled that evidence from Mr Quirk's ex-partner that Coates struck Mr Quirk up to eight times with a wooden mattock handle, and likewise from another witness who was a friend of Mr Quirk, had not validity.
He also said the claim Coates yelled out "die you dog" was unlikely.
Both of the creditable witnesses, Judge Campbell said, indicated they only saw Coates inflict one blow, which while savage in nature went nowhere near meeting anything resembling attempted murder.
"Mr Parkinson did not go on some frenzied, continued attack," he said.
Mr Parkinson, sitting in the court dock, looked to the court ceiling and sighed in relief when it became clear about 4.30pm that he would be acquitted.
That came more than two hours after Judge Campbell began delivering his verdict, at the point where he indicated that self-defence was indeed the likely scenario - even where the intention was to inflict grievous bodily harm.
Twenty minutes later, when Judge Campbell asked him to stand and formerly pronounce him not guilty of murder, Mr Parkinson appeared stunned.
He was then led from the court by NSW Corrective Services officers.
Judge Campbell said medical evidence provided during the judge-only joint trial last week indicated that Mr Parkinson narrowly escaped death as the result of the serious stab wounds inflicted to his chest by Mr Quirk.
His injuries were so substantial he needed eight units of blood in transfusions, the equivalent of what he would have had in his system when he was stabbed.
Judge Campbell said the fact the pair had organised what Mr Parkinson thought was going to be a fist fight - the accused was livid over his belief that Mr Quirk had slashed his leather modular lounge suite with his knife - was not excusable.
Any act of taking the law into your own hands, he said, and taking part in violence was unacceptable to the community.
The court was told, as part of Judge Campbell's verdict, that the first comment he made to police on his arrest in Albury hospital after coming out of intensive care was: "Murder? That's a big one, I didn't bring the knife to the fight."