Skeen found guilty of manslaughter

Luke Tipene died in hospital after being stabbed in the neck during a fight at a Halloween party in 2014 (Facebook)
Luke Tipene died in hospital after being stabbed in the neck during a fight at a Halloween party in 2014 (Facebook)

The teenager accused of killing a rising Auckland rugby league player outside a party has been found guilty of manslaughter by a jury.

The panel of seven men and five women returned their verdict to the Auckland High Court on Monday afternoon, having spent the day considering their decision.

They had to decide whether Vincent Skeen, 18, had murderous intent when he attacked the then 17-year-old Luke Tipene with a broken bottle.

Skeen was cleared of murder, with the jury deciding on the lesser verdict of manslaughter.

Justice Mary Peters summed up the case for the jury on Monday afternoon.

Skeen now awaits his sentencing, which is scheduled to take place on August 16.

Skeen found guilty of manslaughter

Vincent Skeen (Newshub.)

Some family members stormed out of the courtroom when the verdict was delivered.

Mr Tipene's uncle Sean Wilson told media the family was "disappointed" by the verdict, but said they would respect the jury's decision.

He said the end of the court process had brought a degree of closure.

"We can somewhat move on, but we've got to think of the beautiful things that Luke stood for, and remember Luke the way he was," Mr Wilson said.

When quizzed on whether the family would ever forgive Skeen, Mr Wilson said that was something for Mr Tipene's mother to ponder.

"Really, she wants to remain quite neutral about it. She has a lot of mana, and she's holding that within her and she wants to walk away with that intact."

Mr Tipene died in hospital after Skeen allegedly stabbed him in the neck during a fight at a Halloween party in 2014.

The Crown says Skeen had murderous intent, but the defence told the court he acted impulsively and can only be found guilty of manslaughter.

Justice Mary Peters reminded the jury of seven men and five women to put their emotions aside, and make their decision based solely on the facts of the case.

"You must reach decision without any prejudice or sympathy. You may think young people drink too much, and are too quick to fight. You need to put this aside. It would be wrong for you to be influenced by any emotional response."

Earlier, the court heard Skeen and Mr Tipene began fighting after they both arrived at the party separately in Auckland's Grey Lynn.

Mr Tipene was there to rescue a friend who was in a fight, and Skeen had come to pick up his girlfriend.

The court heard Mr Tipene punched Skeen, who then fell to the ground. The crown alleges Skeen then became enraged, and lashed out at Mr Tipene with a broken glass bottle, fatally piercing the teen's jugular vein.

Afterward, Skeen was heard saying to witnesses: "I just stabbed that c***".

In summarising the facts of the case, Justice Peters told the court the Crown's position is that Skeen knew what he was doing, and knew what would happen if the jagged glass bottle connected with Mr Tipene.

But she says the defence believes otherwise.

"The defence says Skeen had a couple of drinks and according to one witness, had been punched into la-la land, so he was not thinking straight. They say he found the bottle and swung out once, but had acted impulsively and without aim."

Justice Peters says key issues arose during the giving of evidence such as how many times Skeen swung the broken bottle, and whether Tipene was backing away.

"The Crown says looking at the number of cuts that it must [have been swung] more than once. But the defence says the evidence indicates the bottle was smashed, swung and connected in quick succession".

The court also heard that the defence believes there is no reliable evidence to indicate Mr Tipene was backing away.