A martial artist who killed a 70-year-old after a road rage run-in turned violent has been found guilty of manslaughter but not the more serious charge of murder.
Francois Joseph Ghassibe was in the back of a taxi on West Terrace in Adelaide when his driver was cut off by 70-year-old Brian Richardson on April 1, 2022.
When Ghassibe tried to break up a confrontation between the taxi driver and Richardson, who had left their cars in the middle of traffic, Richardson started pushing and punching him.
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Ghassibe, who was 40 years Richardson’s junior at the time and 10cm taller, retaliated with devastating effect.
As Richardson’s wife, brother and sister-in-law watched on from their car, Ghassibe — who later told police he had a background in martial arts — launched several blows at the older man before delivering a final, terminal kick to the chin, causing him to fall backwards and hit his head on the bitumen.
A martial artist has been convicted of manslaughter but cleared of murdering a 70-year-old man. Credit: Morgan Sette/AAP
A postmortem examination found the impact of his head on the roadway to be the killing blow.
Ghassibe climbed back into the taxi and drove away while bystanders rushed to Richardson’s aid.
He was later pronounced dead by paramedics.
Ghassibe pleaded guilty to manslaughter but denied that he murdered Richardson.
While there was no question that Ghassibe’s actions led to Richardson’s death, SA Supreme Court Justice David Peek was not satisfied beyond reasonable doubt that he intended to kill him.
“I find that the accused, in delivering the flurry of blows and then the kick, intended to put the deceased to the ground forcefully,” Justice Peek said in his written verdict on Friday.
“However, I am simply not satisfied beyond reasonable doubt that, at the time of administering the flurry of blows or the kick, the accused possessed the specific intent to kill or inflict grievous bodily harm required for the crime of murder to be established.”
Peek did find Ghassibe guilty of manslaughter, satisfied that the kick was not in self-defence and therefore unlawful, that it was a dangerous act and that he should have realised it risked causing Richardson serious injury.
The judge agreed with the defence proposition that, at the crucial moment in the altercation, Ghassibe was influenced by the stress caused by “the unexpected and surprisingly aggressive conduct of the deceased”.
His mental state was exacerbated by the cocaine and alcohol circulating through his bloodstream and the temporary impairment of vision to his only good eye from being spat and punched at, he found.
Justice Peek will hear sentencing submissions later on Friday.
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