Joshua Higgins gave a massive sigh of relief when the jury cleared him of murdering his friend, Gungahlin man Jae-Ho Oh.
The verdict marks the end of the month-long trial in the ACT Supreme Court, during which Higgins claimed he had acted in self-defence after the pair had a fight in Mr Oh’s one-bedroom home on 11 March 2019.
Higgins was accused of stabbing the 56-year-old 14 times in the neck and back, as well as bashing his face with a soundbar speaker four times.
The 32-year-old denied murdering his friend and on 1 April the jury announced it had found him not guilty of that charge, but guilty of manslaughter.
Higgins gave a huge sigh, closed his eyes and clutched his hands to his chest when the verdict was read out. He later smiled at his lawyer when the court hearing ended.
During the trial, the court heard Higgins had taken the drug ‘ice’, or methylamphetamine, about 24 hours before going to Mr Oh’s house. The two spent the next day drinking before Higgins finally went to bed that evening after remaining awake for about 60 hours.
He feared he had been sexually assaulted when he woke up with his pants apparently pulled down and Mr Oh lying on top of him. The two began an argument which escalated into a fight.
On 30 March, Justice John Burns told the jury Higgins did not deny stabbing Mr Oh with a knife, but Higgins had said he did not have the intention to kill Mr Oh required for the crime of murder.
Higgins, who has post-traumatic stress disorder, said it was Mr Oh who originally attacked him with a knife when their argument escalated before he took the knife and stabbed his friend, but then Mr Oh ran to grab another knife and they struggled again.
“To put it in a nutshell, the accused said he was acting in self-defence at the time he inflicted the wounds on Mr Oh,” Justice Burns said.
“The Crown has not been able to point to any rational motive to kill Mr Oh.”
Justice Burns said prosecutor Trent Hickey had argued Mr Oh died from blood loss; in particular, from two stab wounds that penetrated his lungs.
However, he said Higgins’ barrister Kieran Ginges from Burley Griffin Chambers claimed Mr Oh could have died after being wounded by broken glass on the floor or from the effects of CPR when it was first administered to him.
The jury had three options in the case: guilty of murder, not guilty of murder, or not guilty of murder but guilty of manslaughter.
The jurors decided on the latter.
After the verdict, Justice Burns said Higgins would remain in custody ahead of his next court appearance. A sentencing date has not been announced.