A drunken man who used a large knife to assault a rival for a woman's attention has been sentenced to a mandatory minimum of eight years behind bars for causing his death.
But for the prescribed mandatory minimum term, Justice Ian Harrison said he would have imposed a different sentence on Justin Shawn John Smith.
The legal requirement "significantly inhibits my ability properly or adequately to take account of Mr Smith's mental illness, or of any part it may have played in his ability to deal appropriately with the situation that confronted him," he said.
The 35-year-old was acquitted of murdering Luke William Freeman who sustained two knife wounds in the abdomen at a home at South Grafton in January 2019.
Alternative verdicts of manslaughter, assault occasioning death whilst intoxicated and assault occasioning death were left for the Coffs Harbour jury's consideration
They found Smith guilty of the second alternative, which carries a mandatory minimum non-parole period of eight years.
In the NSW Supreme Court on Thursday, Justice Harrison jailed him for 10 years and eight months with a non-parole period of eight years.
Smith had known Katrina Marshall for about 10 years as a close platonic friend, while Mr Freeman, 28, had recently begun an intimate relationship with her.
Ms Marshall, a brother and Mr Freeman had been drinking at the South Grafton home before Smith joined them.
"When he met Mr Freeman they shook hands. Mr Smith noted that Mr Freeman gripped his hand so firmly that it felt like he was crushing it," the judge said.
They continued drinking before an argument broke out between Mr Freeman and Smith.
"It appears that Mr Freeman became jealous and accused Mr Smith of being romantically interested in Ms Marshall.
"Mr Smith insisted that he was not but that he loved her only as a friend."
The argument flared up again and Mr Freeman became aggressive, telling Smith, "come on, do you wanna go then, let's go outside".
Ms Marshall told them to stop being stupid and to "shut up and get over it".
Smith said he would call a cab and walked into the kitchen.
Smith said he heard Mr Freeman saying he was going to kill him and saw him walk towards the front door and bend over as if to pick up something which Smith perceived was a pole.
He took a knife from a knife block and ran at Mr Freeman with the weapon attempting to disarm him.
"Mr Smith hit Mr Freeman with the knife in a way that was not of itself dangerous but it caused Mr Freeman to turn abruptly and move towards Mr Smith, thereby impaling himself upon the knife," the judge said.
After Ms Marshall's brother grabbed Smith, Smith hit Mr Freeman with the knife causing a deep stab wound as Mr Freeman moved forward.
The judge rejected the crown submission that he could find Smith deliberately stabbed Mr Freeman twice.
He accepted that Smith had a significant history of mental illness and that Mr Freeman had threatened him in some way.
"I am able to conclude that Mr Smith's reaction to the situation included a perception, significantly the product of his mental state, that he was under some kind of threat from Mr Freeman.
"However, I reject the suggestion that Mr Freeman was actually ever in possession of a metal pole, whatever Mr Smith might have thought about it."
The evidence painted "a not unfamiliar scene of superficial merriment, fuelled by alcohol and other substances, disguising the latent rivalry for a woman's attention between two men who were not otherwise particularly friendly".
In victim impact statements, Mr Freeman's sister and their parents spoke of the devastation brought to them by his death.
Her only sibling had "always been "a lover not a fighter", a quiet, shy, gentle man who would shy away from conflict, Amy Freeman said.