The survivor of a knife attack has told Newshub he believes racial injustice is a significant factor in why the man who did it was able to walk free.
Dustin La Mont was last week found not guilty of the manslaughter of Nathan Pukeroa and not guilty of wounding Devaray Junior Cole-Kuvarji.
Mr Cole-Kuvarji hasn't spoken to reporters since his friend died in December last year.
"If we can't trust in our own justice system, who do we turn to? I've got to try and get the word out that what happened isn't right," Mr Cole Kuvarji told Newshub.
Prosecutors argued Mr La Mont became obsessed with getting his neighbours evicted because of frustration with their parties and suspected drug dealing.
In a statement to Newshub, the defence counsel for Mr La Mont said there was a strong narrative for self-defence and that both Mr Pukeroa and Mr Cole-Kuvarji had a propensity for violence.
"The defence case was that this serious commercial drug-dealing activity explained why at about midnight, after an evening drinking and socialising at the next-door address, the deceased Mr Pukeroa and Mr Cole-Kuvarji observed Mr La Mont walk past that address and look in, and went out and confronted him near the end of the dead-end street," the statement reads.
"The two men (weighing 117kg and about 100kg respectively) blocked his attempts to exit past them, asked him if he was 'working for the police', pushed and shoved him, before saying they would 'smash' him, and commencing this 'smashing' by throwing a punch at him."
Mr Cole-Kuvarji admits he has been involved in gangs and was recently released from prison for the aggravated robbery of two tourists in Kaitaia, but he doesn't believe it's fair that his previous convictions were taken into account.
"It's not fair to say that's the people we were that day, that night - it's not fair just because we might be bigger or [have] darker skin or got tattoos, that we are more intimidating than a smaller white person, that we should have lesser immunity."
He says he believes the jury were prejudiced towards them because of their ethnicity.
"I think if it was me or Nathan standing in the dock, we would have had to say goodbye to our families that day for at least 15, 20 years."
On the night of the killing, Mr La Mont sent a series of angry tweets about a loud party, grabbed a knife and went towards next door, the Crown said during the trial.
The defence said Mr La Mont told police he had warned the pair he was armed as they cornered him, but that one of them had swung at him as he tried to flee.
A petition calling for a retrial, organised by Mr Pukeroa's family, has reached nearly 1400 signatures. However, Crown prosecutors say it is unlikely an appeal would be lodged.
Here is the full statement from Dustin La Mont's defence team.
At trial there was agreed evidence that a gang member and another person present at the next-door address on the day and evening of the incident had purchased an ounce of methamphetamine at that address for $8000, and negotiated to purchase $78,000 worth of pseudoephedrine, the latter transaction being aborted mid-afternoon, with the person stating that the money was "here anyway".
The defence case was the deceased Mr Pukeroa and Mr Cole-Kuvarji had knowledge of the methamphetamine and cash at the next-door address that evening, and were protecting it. This knowledge was evidenced by, amongst other things, a text from Mr Pukeroa the day before saying "I just counted 80k".
The defence case was that this serious commercial drug dealing activity explained why at about midnight, after an evening drinking and socialising at the next-door address, the deceased Mr Pukeroa and Mr Cole-Kuvarji observed Mr La Mont walk past that address and look in, and went out and confronted him near the end of the dead-end street. The two men (weighing 117kg and about 100kg respectively) blocked his attempts to exit past them, asked him if he was "working for the police", pushed and shoved him, before saying they would "smash" him, and commencing this "smashing" by throwing a punch at him.
Mr La Mont - who, according to the evidence, has no previous convictions and had never been in a fight before - reacted instinctively to defend himself from imminent and potentially very serious harm, in circumstances where there was no other option reasonably available to him.
The two men both had a propensity for violence, further supporting Mr La Mont's contention he was acting in lawful self-defence. Both had previously been convicted of aggravated robbery, with Mr Cole-Kuvarji being recently released from prison for the aggravated robbery of two German tourists in Kaitaia, during which he used a piece of wood as a weapon.
In all of the above circumstances, there was a strong narrative for self-defence, which appears to be the basis on which the verdicts were returned.
While relieved and very grateful for the jury's careful consideration of the matter, Mr La Mont takes no joy from the verdicts. Though his actions were found to be legally justifiable, a life was lost, and this is something that Mr La Mont will always have to live with.
It is of concern that none of the mainstream media - who have an obligation to report in a fair and balanced way – appear to have seen fit to report this important and undisputed evidence of major commercial drug dealing occurring at the neighbours' address on the very day of the incident and its significance to the issues in the trial. This was a fundamental plank of the defence case, and was referred to and detailed by defence counsel throughout the trial in cross-examination of witnesses and in closing address.