Former NRL star Craig Field ‘was acting like a captain’ trying to ‘neutralize a volatile situation’, a NSW Supreme Court jury was told yesterday.
In what are expected to be the final days of Field’s murder trial in Lismore, his barrister Tony Bellanto QC said his client was not a murderer.
Field is standing trial for the murder of 50-year-old farmer Kelvin Kane, who died following a fight in the carpark of the Kingscliff Hotel in July 2012.
Mr Bellanto, in summing up the defence case, described the prosecution case against Field as “a Clayton’s case”.
The prosecution has alleged the blunt force of a blow from Field to Mr Kane was enough to cause a fatal brain haemorrhage.
But the defence has told the court Mr Kane was punched by another man, Shaun Fathers, just seconds earlier.
The court heard of a verbal stoush involving Field’s mate Fathers and Mr Kane’s friend Lyn Burger. Field had told the court he intervened after a ‘heated and angry’ Fathers abused Ms Burger and threw a bar stool.
Ongoing tension from throughout the afternoon culminated in a confrontation between Fathers and Kane in the carpark.
‘The crown has selected the good bits and glossed over bad bits,’ Mr Bellanto told the jury yesterday.
‘The real tragedy in this case for Mr Field and Mr Kane, their relatives and friends, is that the two people who showed the least amount of aggression is the one here (Field) and the one deceased (Mr Kane).
Mr Bellanto said Field was entitled to have his character considered when the jury deliberated on their verdict.
He said Field was acting as a peacemaker, not only in the TAB bar on number of occasions; he was also acting as a peacemaker between Mr Wallace (the hotel manager) and Frosty (a patron).
‘He was saying “just cool it down, don’t do anything you’ll regret”.’
‘This was the action of a captain, of a man acting responsibly. Acting under a stressful situation with calm reflection and doing his best to neutralise a volatile situation.’
Mr Bellanto said Field had acknowledged that he punched Mr Kane but it was out of fear. He said expert witnesses had told the court that Mr Kane died from an injury to the left side of his jaw, while Field’s punch had landed on the right side of his head.
‘He was confronted by a man who had punched Mr Fathers, who was being held… Fathers moved away and Kane was standing in front of him in a fighting stance.
‘He saw him throw a punch at Father’s head and thought he was going to get one so he struck out and struck him on the right side of head.’
Mr Bellanto said there was no issue that his client punched Kane and he fell down. But he provided an explanation for the way Mr Kane dropped to the ground.
‘It was because Mr Kane had reached the point where the blood had invaded the arachnoid membrane causing him to collapse, or crumble. It was at that stage he went down to the ground.
‘Prof Hilton said at that moment it would be unlikely that a blow causing a head twist and sub hematoma would cause an instant collapse because the release of the blood is a process that takes seconds.
‘A person could remain upright and adopt a fighting stance. So the whole process – the bleeding probably from one of the minor arteries – explained very clearly that once Mr Kane was punched it was most likely by Mr Fathers.
‘It couldn’t have been anyone else,’’ he said.
Mr Bellanto will sum up the defence case today.
Once that is done, Justice Elizabeth Fullerton will provide directions to the jury, which is expected to be ‘sent out’ on Friday.