The jury in the trial of a man in the High Court at Wellington accused of murdering his wife has retired to consider its verdict.
Ronald James Fennell, 58, pleaded not guilty to murdering 62-year-old Shirley Anne Keith at their suburban Kilbirnie home on January 10 last year.
In his summing up today, Justice Denis Clifford told the jury of seven men and five women they needed to decide whether to find Fennell guilty of either murder or manslaughter.
Fennell, pale and bearded, sat in the dock with his head bowed throughout the summary of the case.
Crown prosecutor Mark O'Donoghue said Fennell, a hospital orderly, had admitted shooting his wife three times after drinking in a bar following a trip to a bank to sort out a credit card problem.
Fennell, a recovering alcoholic, told police he had promised Ms Keith he would not drink, but on the day she died he had eight or nine beers and a nip of spirits before arriving home late.
He had also smoked cannabis.
Ms Keith accused him of lying for breaking his promise, and said the neighbours made her feel unsafe.
Fennell then fetched a sawn-off shotgun from upstairs and told her they had all the protection they needed.
He told police the fighting got a "bit too much and I did it".
He then said he shot Ms Keith twice more to put her out of her misery.
In his summing up, Justice Cifford said Mr O'Donoghue argued that Fennell's actions amounted to murder.
However, he said Fennell's lawyer Chris Tennet argued that Fennell never had any "murderous intent" but was a confused and intoxicated man who could not recall specific details about the night.
Justice Clifford said the defence had pointed to all character witnesses speaking highly of Fennell.
While being of good character did not mean someone would not commit a crime, Justice Clifford told the jury it should be considered in terms of whether Fennell was the type of person who could consider murdering his wife.
Mr Tennet had said Fennell had been proud of his honesty and when his wife call him a liar, his last piece of dignity was corroded.
It was an excusable loss of self-control that was consistent with a verdict of manslaughter rather than murder, Mr Tennet said.
Justice Clifford said both defence and the Crown accepted Fennell's confession to the police, but had drawn different conclusions.
"The Crown took his statement as a confession of murder and the defence as a confused man who did not have a full recollection of events."
The jury retired just before 11am.