It was a spontaneous street fight between two acquaintances that left one man dead and the other convicted of murder.
But if not for an undiagnosed brain defect, Scott Miller would not have died in the brawl with Adam James Matthews after they left the Courthouse Hotel in Darlinghurst one evening in 2011, a judge has found.
Matthews, 38, was jailed for at least 11 years in the NSW Supreme Court on Monday for the murder of Mr Miller.
The jury heard the pair were fighting during an evening of drinking, when Mr Miller suddenly fell backwards from a punch to the jaw and hit his head on a pedestrian railing.
Witnesses said they then saw Matthews, who was wearing thongs, stomp on the man’s head or upper body before going into a nearby alley. Mr Miller appeared to have been unconscious before his head hit the ground, and a pathologist found this was probably because the punch had caused a hidden ”berry aneurysm” in the back of his brain to burst.
The court heard that neither man knew about Mr Miller’s condition at the time of the fight.
During the trial Matthews’ barrister, Nathan Steel, said Mr Miller’s death was the result of an ”unexpected and unfortunate event”.
”This is far different to any murder case that you might read about or hear about,” Mr Steel said. ”Mr Matthews didn’t know that a punch to the jaw would cause this aneurysm to burst and he didn’t know that this would result in Scott Miller dying.”
But the Crown prosecutor, Trevor Bailey, said that it did not matter that the aneurysm was there.
In handing down the sentence, Acting Justice Jane Mathews did not take general deterrence into account. She said the fact that something that started as a street fight could end with such ”horrific consequences” was warning enough.
She said the fight broke out in the early evening of February 19, when the men both traded blows, but at some point Matthews landed the fatal punch.
The ”completely spontaneous” nature of Matthews’ outburst was fuelled by alcohol, she said.
Matthews was handed a maximum term of 16 years.
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