The man accused of running down a woman in a stolen 4WD is a thief, a bag snatcher and a coward but is no murderer, says his lawyer.
Christopher Shadrock has denied murdering Jian "Joanne'' Wang when he allegedly ran her down in the carpark of the Manukau Westfield shopping centre in June 2008.
Mrs Wang died of head injuries in hospital the next day.
Shadrock's lawyer Chris Wilkinson-Smith told a jury at the High Court at Auckland today that he suspected they felt nothing but loathing for his client.
"So 'thief', 'bag snatcher' and 'coward' are all labels he must wear with shame ... but with that, the Crown is asking you to add the label of `murderer'.''
He said his client did not intend to hurt anyone when he drove off with Mrs Wang's handbag.
"The possibility that Mrs Wang could die never entered his mind.''
Mr Wilkinson-Smith said the jurors would hear evidence that Shadrock was driving at no more than 20km/h and such speeds rarely cause traffic deaths.
"You're going to hear that the fatal blow was not caused by the vehicle striking Mrs Wang's head but her head hitting the tarmac.''
He said Mrs Wang was also unable to break her fall with her arms.
"You will have weeks to go over and over and over an incident that lasted seconds.''
Crown prosecutor Kevin Glubb told the jurors in his opening address that Shadrock had options as he left the Manukau carpark and the killing was unnecessary.
"Mr Shadrock stole the handbag but found his escape route blocked and chose to run her down to get away with his plunder,'' Mr Glubb said.
He said Shadrock ran Mrs Wang down in his desperate attempt to get away.
Mr Glubb said that in the days after the killing, Shadrock's friends tried to help him by hiding the handbag and burning the stolen car they knew had been used to kill Mrs Wang and would tie him to the crime.
Four of Shadrock's friends are on trial for their alleged parts in the crime.
Maka Tuikolovatu has denied hiding Mrs Wang's handbag at his home.
Three others - Vila Lemanu, Lionel Tekanawa and Terence Tere - have denied destroying evidence, namely setting fire to a Nissan 4WD in the days following Mrs Wang's death.
Mr Glubb said Tere had told police he was paid $300 by Shadrock to get rid of the 4WD.
He said Tere drove the truck to a secluded carpark where the others helped him set fire to it.
Mr Glubb said all of them knew what Shadrock had done but tried to help their friend.
A jury of nine women and three men will visit the Westfield carpark tomorrow before the first witnesses for the Crown are called.
It has been set down for five weeks but Justice Timothy Brewer told the jurors on Monday that it could be over in fewer than four.