Man freed over single-punch death
THE mother of a one-punch victim has demanded justice for her son after the man who threw the fatal blow walked free when a judge ruled he could have been acting in self-defence.
Reece Watherston was acquitted on Monday after pleading not guilty to the manslaughter of Jack Hanley, 22, who died after being struck with a single punch to the head during a brawl in central Adelaide in 2017.
Mr Hanley's mother, Julie Kelbin, remembered her son as a "gentle soul" who had never been involved in a violent fight before and asked outside court: "Where is the justice for my son?" "How many more deaths on our streets is it going to take before our legal system starts to take this seriously?" she said.
Ms Kelbin and other family members hurled abuse at Mr Watherston, 21, when they came face-to-face as he left the court building with lawyers a short time later. She yelled "Show remorse for my son", while supporters called him "murderer" and a "dog".
The judge-alone trial heard Mr Hanley died at the scene in Hindley Street from catastrophic head injuries caused when he fell backward and fractured his skull on the pavement.
"The accused hit him as hard as he possibly could," prosecutor Mark Norman SC said.
"The prosecution alleges the punch was an unlawful and dangerous act." But Supreme Court justice Anne Bampton said it was possible Mr Watherston was acting in self-defence.
"The prosecution has not excluded as a reasonable possibility that Mr Watherston, when confronted by Mr Hanley, fought back because he believed he had to," she said.
Her view aligns with evidence from Mr Watherston at trial, when the court heard he aimed a punch at Mr Hanley's face because he was scared for himself and his friends.
Mr Watherston said he had been thrown onto the road before the confrontation, which happened shortly after 5am on a Sunday.
"Out of nowhere I've seen this huge, huge male approach me with clenched fists swinging at me," he said.
"I just remember seeing his fist go past my face and that's when I thought, "Holy shit, I need to pay attention to what's going on here'." He said he aimed his punch at Mr Hanley's face "to get him off me and away from me ... I had to protect myself".
"I was scared, we were all scared," he said.