A Christchurch High Court jury tonight found six Timaru men not guilty of murdering Wayne Kerry Bray, but guilty of his manslaughter.
It returned its verdicts after a retirement of seven hours at the end of a trial that had gone on for more than five weeks.
Justice Mark Cooper remanded the six in custody for sentence in Timaru on February 11, and ordered pre-sentence reports for each of them.
The six on trial were John Oliver Jamieson, 20, a fisherman, Morgan Christopher James Parker, 17, a freezing worker, Simon Antony Anglem, 17, a labourer, Ashley Jordan Moffat, 17, a butcher, Nicholas John Peters,17, a freezing worker, and Daniel Raymond Kreegher, 19, a boner. They had denied the joint charge of murdering 26-year-old Mr Bray.
The reaction was muted from the public gallery, including many who have sat through the whole trial.
As the six were led away, someone called out, "Rot in jail, scumbags."
Someone else called out, "See you later, bro."
The Crown had called 92 witnesses, aiming to prove its case that the six had participated in a group attack on the lone victim who was repeatedly punched, knocked down, and then kicked and stomped on a Timaru street.
He died in hospital of head injuries four days later.
The post mortem examination showed five or six impacts to the head, and forensic pathologist Dr Martin Sage told the court that any one of them could have caused the brain damage that led to death.
None of the accused gave or called evidence in their defence, but all relied on closing addresses by defence counsel asserting that the Crown had failed to prove its case for murder.
The jury clearly decided all six had taken part in the street attack on Mr Bray, or had encouraged each other into what the Crown said was a pack mentality.
But it may have decided that the members of the group had not realised that the blows they were inflicting were enough to kill or were reckless about whether death could occur and took the risk.
Justice Cooper thanked the jury for its weeks of service "at great personal inconvenience".
"We are grateful for the way you have gone about your task," he said.