A "deranged, violent criminal with a gun" and a "very nasty man bent on very serious mischief".
Those weren't the words used to describe the defendant but instead stab victim Coubin Tamatoa on Thursday, as jurors returned to the High Court at Auckland for the first time in over a month to hear closing statements in the murder trial of Isaac Allen Harnwell.
"We live in unusual times," Justice Mathew Downs told jurors through a face mask as the morning began - acknowledging the Covid-19 outbreak that caused the trial's lengthy hiatus and the new safety protocols in place.
Shortly thereafter, both sides concluded presenting evidence, with Harnwell's lawyers declining to call any witnesses.
"There can be no doubt the accused in this case was terrified," defence lawyer Andrew Speed said in his closing statement that followed, arguing that his client should be found not guilty because he was acting in self-defence. "He was about to be subjected to a very serious assault.
"... He's a very dangerous man, Mr Tamatoa, and Mr Harnwell knew that ... He's not someone you can ever trust to do anything except the worst when he gets the chance. He's not a decent man, Mr Tamatoa."
Tamatoa, 31, died in August 2020 at a Whenuapai property on Auckland's northwestern outskirts where his ex-girlfriend lived. Harnwell had been hiding for at least two hours in a bedroom of the house - cowering in terror, the defence said, while the Crown contended he was lying in wait to attack Tamatoa following weeks of bad blood between the two.
Within seconds of entering the bedroom, Tamatoa re-emerged with a slash to his eye and a knife with a 20cm blade sticking from his chest.
Crown prosecutor Alysha McClintock acknowledged Tamatoa's behaviour was "appalling" that night. Witnesses said his drug-fuelled rampage included holding a gun to his ex-girlfriend's throat and threatening to kill her, doing doughnuts with his car in a paddock on the property and throwing a crumpet at a friend who had tried to calm him down following another confrontation.
But the defendant wasn't fearful, she argued. He instead was looking for revenge after Tamatoa stole $18,000 worth of illegal drugs from him days earlier and an incident the prior month in which he believed Tamatoa shot at his car as he was leaving the same property.
"As badly as Mr Tamatoa behaved that night, when he finally did come across Mr Harnwell he had no weapon and he had no associates with him," McClintock said. "Mr Harnwell armed himself and, really importantly, he did not leave ... despite there being ample opportunities for him to do so.
"That tells you he had his own motivation."
There was a door to the back deck in the bedroom where he was hiding and windows he could have crawled out of if he was scared and looking to avoid a confrontation, she said. He knew the property well and could have easily walked into the darkness, she said.
Also important to note, she argued, is that witnesses did not hear the two men exchange any words inside the bedroom before Tamatoa was stabbed - nothing to indicate an argument that might require self-defence.
In a recorded interview with police that was played for jurors last month, Harnwell suggested Tamatoa - who was much bigger than him - was accidentally stabbed when he fell on the knife as Harnwell was sitting in a recliner chair. McClintock disparaged that explanation as well.
"It's utterly implausible that Mr Tamatoa fell on the knife once, fell on the knife again and got stabbed," she said of the wounds to his eye and his chest.
Even if jurors do believe Harnwell cut Tamatoa's face out of self-defence to begin with, "that makes the stab to the chest gratuitous", she argued.
But the defence characterised prosecutors' idea that Harnwell didn't fear for his life and could have walked away as "fanciful theories" and "a preposterous suggestion". While a gun wasn't found on Tamatoa's body, it isn't in dispute that he had one earlier that night and it's likely he still did as he entered the room, Speed told jurors.
"[Tamatoa] went in there to kill him and he was going to use a gun. That's what he was in there to do," Speed said, adding that his client "swung [the knife] out of fear, out of terror in a fraction of a second he had to think about it, with his eyes closed".
Jurors are expected to begin deliberating on Friday.