There it was, at last, for all to see - the jury, the accused, her family, the victim's family - when the registrar at the High Court of Auckland was directed by prosecutor Scott McColgan on Thursday afternoon to display exhibit 1 in the trial of Anna Eiao Browne, 36, accused of the murder of Carly Jasmine Leinala Stewart, also 36. The jury looked at it. Browne looked at her feet. Her family sit in the back row of the public gallery, and might not have seen it. Stewart's family and friends occupy the front rows, and they might have been able to see it, unfortunately.
The kitchen knife that killed Carly Stewart was displayed inside a Perspex case. It was suspended in the middle of it. It looked like a kind of art object, like Damien Hirst's famous installation of a tiger shark preserved inside a large cabinet; but it wasn't destined for an art gallery or a museum, there wasn't anything contrived or fanciful about it, it was central evidence in a murder trial.
The trial began two weeks ago. A verdict is due very soon. All the witnesses have given evidence. Prosecution and defence will give their closing addresses on Monday; Justice Ed Wyllie, a kindly, softly-spoken soul, will sum up; and then the exceptionally young jury will probably be sent out in the afternoon to deliberate.
There is no dispute that Browne picked up the knife and plunged it into the side of Carly Stewart's face. It was a very sudden blow and it went in very deep. Browne took it out, and walked backwards into the kitchen.
The killing took place at a pamper party. A beautician was there to do the nails and lashes of nine women who arrived at the house at 47 School Road, Te Atatu South, on the Saturday afternoon of October 15 last year. Most of the guests knew each other, were lifelong friends. Browne was an "outsider", said one of the women. The party started at about 1pm. There was drinks and nibbles, and everyone, it seemed, was really happy, until about 3pm, when Browne argued with a guest.
"There were patches of tension and ill-feeling at the party," Browne's lawyer Marie Dhyrberg QC told the court. "Not just from Anna Browne. Not all of this ill-feeling is at the feet of Anna Browne."
The fatal stabbing was at about 4pm. Paramedics arrived at the scene and worked on Stewart as she lay dying in the lounge; police herded guests into the kitchen, where they saw the blood-stained knife in the sink. The guests told the court they were afraid earlier that Browne still had it, and was returning to the house - she'd left the property after stabbing Stewart, and walked down School Road towards Henderson Creek, but immediately returned to the house and walked up the driveway and everyone started screaming.
The knife was presented to defence witness Dr Krishna Pillai during cross-examination. It had a hard black plastic handle, and the blade was long.
With the knife in front of him, Dr Pillai was asked by prosecutor Scott McColgan whether he agreed that Browne's use of it to stab Carly Stewart in the face indicated "pretty fine motor skills". Dr Pillai allowed this was possible.
"And was it," asked McColgan, "what that you would describe as a purposeful action towards an intended result?"
Dr Pillai said, "Yes."
He took the stand after the prosecution had called the last of its 36 witnesses - their own forensic psychiatrist, Dr David Street, a whispery-voiced fellow from Pennsylvania. He was the second American to give evidence. Earlier in the week, the prosecution called Dr Chip Gresham, an ESR scientist who studied at the University of Massachusetts. He was thin and wiry, but with big, tough hands; Gresham is an active rock climber, and is due to climb in Spain at the end of the month.
Dr Gresham was called to give evidence relating to the alcohol and drugs found in a urine sample taken from Browne after her arrest. She proved positive for traces of methamphetamine, or P, which she said she'd smoked three or four days before the killing. There were also traces of amphetamine, contained in Ritalin, which she took for her ADHD. Dr Gresham said he didn't expect that P would trigger "bizarre behaviour" three or four days after it was smoked.
"May it please your Honour," said prosecutor Nick Webby after Dr Street had spoken on the subject of Anna Browne's state of mind, "that is the evidence for the Crown." There was a 15 minute adjournment, and then Dyhrberg opened for the defence. She spoke for 20 minutes. She said Browne had elected not to give evidence, and that she would call two expert witnesses, one in forensic psychiatry, and the other in toxicology.
She stood facing the jury, and said: "The defence says you will not, on the evidence you have heard, be able to find that Anna Browne, beyond reasonable doubt, intended to kill....Anna Browne has no recollection of stabbing Carly Stewart. But she does not say, 'I didn't do it.' She does not say she did not deliver the fatal blow, but she does challenge murderous intent."
Dyhrberg has a beautiful speaking voice. It's posh, but not overbearingly so; and along with her short hair and her thin smile, she's gone full Judi Dench.
She said, "The defence says that due to Anna Browne's intoxicated state, she did not mean to kill and did not know there was the risk of death." She paused, and then said very simple words: "She didn't stop to think."
The foreman of the jury is maybe 24, 25. Dyhrberg looked at him, and said: "If you find there is no murderous intent....you will find Anna Browne not guilty of murder, but guilty of manslaughter."