"How do you react when it looks like someone's being killed right there in front of you?"
A murder-accused inmate's lawyer posed that question to jurors as horrific footage of a maximum-security jail yard killing was replayed in court.
Paul Simon Tuliloa, Riki Wiremu Ngamoki and Lopeti Telefoni have all pleaded not guilty to the murder of inmate Blake John Lee at Auckland Prison in Paremoremo.
A fourth inmate, who has name suppression, has pleaded guilty to murder after stomping on Lee and stabbing him with a shank in a prison yard on March 5 last year.
That shank-wielding inmate was on a probably unstoppable quest to kill, Ngamoki's defence counsel, Anoushka Bloem, told the High Court at Auckland today.
Bloem said her client was not in a position to stop the stabbing, but did not help the murderous inmate either.
She told the court Ngamoki had no knowledge about any planned attack on Lee.
Bloem said her client's involvement in violence was restricted to a simultaneous but separate attack on Lee's fellow Mongrel Mob inmate, Cesar Su'a.
She said even if Ngamoki's assault on Su'a coincidentally helped the shank-wielding inmate, that was insufficient to make Ngamoki guilty of murder.
"This was no group attack. There was no plan. It was spontaneous."
Bloem said the young men in the yard had virtually nothing to do except exercise and play cards.
Jurors have been told Ngamoki and Tuliloa identified with the Killer Beez and Telefoni was with the Crips.
Prosecutors argued Ngamoki fought with Su'a to prevent him helping Lee.
But Bloem said the fourth inmate was on a ferocious, individual mission.
"He showed absolutely no restraint in his frenzied killing of Mr Lee."
She said this meant Su'a could probably not have helped Lee anyway.
Jurors heard the inmate with the shank stabbed Lee another 15 times after Ngamoki had disengaged from fighting with Su'a.
Bloem said if prison security was functioning properly, the fourth inmate would never have been allowed to smuggle a shank into the yard.
She said nobody, including Ngamoki, had reason to believe a lethal weapon would be in the yard.
And she said the Crown effectively told Ngamoki: "You must have seen it and therefore you must be guilty."
Prosecutor David Johnstone previously suggested the presence of Mongrel Mob members agitated Ngamoki for some time before the violence broke out.
In his closing address, Tuliloa's lawyer, Gary Gotlieb, said a farcical, indecisive situation at the Department of Corrections influenced events of March 5 last year.
"This tragedy should never have happened. And it appears Corrections are under-staffed and under-resourced."
Jurors have heard eight inmates were in the yard and department policies meant 24 staff were required to suppress unrest.
Gotlieb told jurors one Corrections officer said, "Let's get in there and stop him" but another mentioned the 3-to-1 ratio.
Gotlieb said a smaller number of guards went in anyway.
"There was probably only about 10 initially and everything stopped. I don't know who sets up these rules, but we have rules that cannot be enforced."
He said no other prisoner could have stopped the fourth inmate's stabbing frenzy during "two minutes of madness".
Gotlieb said Tuliloa teamed up with Ngamoki because Ngamoki had kindly helped him out earlier by giving him goods and food on his arrival at Paremoremo.
He said the Crown bizarrely surmised that inmate visits to the jail-yard toilet were significant, or suggestive of some plot related to hiding the shank.
He said the Crown was clutching at straws, or, in this case, "clutching at toilet paper".
Gotlieb said the trial revealed how some prisoners were treated in inhumane and undignified ways.
"We've got these men locked down 23 hours a day, carried between prisons in steel boxes and handcuffed."
Telefoni has admitted throwing the first punch at Lee.
Yesterday, his lawyer, Emma Priest, said Lee flashed a Mongrel Mob hand gesture in the prison yard, and that gesture provoked a violent reaction.
The three men on trial have admitted injuring with intent.
Justice Simon Moore has started summing up the case to jurors, and is expected to continue doing so on Monday.
The trial continues.