UPDATE: A high-profile one-punch case that saw former WAFL footballer Luke Adams clinging to life following a drunken Northbridge clash has ended this afternoon with a Perth jury finding the 20-year-old man accused of the attack not guilty.
A District Court jury took two hours to acquit Dylan Gerald Wayne Winter of unlawfully causing grievous bodily harm after a two-week trial.
Emotions ran high in the courtroom as the verdict was revealed, with Mr Winter's family and supporters bursting into tears when the decision was handed down.
Mr Adams, who attended court every day of the trial, was not at court for the verdict.
Mr Winter did not comment as he left court flanked by family and his lawyers.
Mr Adams sustained life-threatening head injuries when he fell and hit his head on the ground and was in a coma for several weeks after Mr Winter punched him on Lake Street at about 2.30am on May 1 last year. Mr Winter argued he acted in self-defence after Mr Adams threatened to “smash” him.
Prosecutors argued Mr Winter’s actions were unreasonable, unlawful and unnecessary and that he wanted to back up his friend Jake Ward, who the jury heard was having a verbal stoush with Mr Adams across the road, at all costs.
The defence claimed Mr Adams was drunk, angry and “intent on a fight” and Mr Winter intervened to stop anyone from getting hurt before making a “split second decision” to defend himself.
In his police interview less than 24 hours after the incident, a teary Mr Winter, then an 18-year-old apprentice with no criminal history, told detectives he hit Mr Adams to avoid getting hit first and did not think the punch was that hard.
“I’d never ever done anything like this before … this guy’s bigger than me, what else am I meant to do,” he told police.
Mr Winter claimed he fled the scene after felling Mr Adams because he panicked and was scared of getting arrested. The prosecution suggested Mr Winter was still in an angry frame of mind when he encountered Mr Adams because of an earlier fight he and his friends had with nightclub bouncers.
The defence rejected that, saying that fight, less than an hour before the incident with Mr Adams, was a “distraction”.
Defence lawyer Craig Eberhardt said Mr Winter knew if Mr Ward and Mr Adams, who it claimed started the argument after making a “seedy” comment to Mr Ward and his girlfriend Kara Hagen, reached each other they would fight and that was why he confronted the tall stranger and told him to “back off”.
Mr Adams’ friend Travis Gray admitted the Swan Districts ruckman told him: “come on Travvy, lets smash these c….” moments before he was punched, which the defence claimed was telling evidence of Mr Adams’ state of mind
The jury was told later on May 1 Mr Winter sent a text message to Miss Hagen, telling her: “the guy (Mr Adams) was mouthing off so he deserved what he got”. But the defence said that was a “throwaway line” to a distressed friend who was wrongly blaming herself for the incident and there was no evidence Mr Winter knew at that stage the extent of Mr Adams’ injuries.
Mr Eberhardt told the jury his client had been “vilified” by the media over the past 18 months and urged them: “do not sacrifice Dylan Winter at the altar of the myth of Luke Adams.” Evidence from various witnesses often proved to be conflicting and CCTV footage of the lead-up to the confrontation played a key role in the trial.
The confrontation and punch was impossible to see because the area in question was blotted out by a taxi’s headlights.