Whether or not Shane Holmes intended to cause "really serious bodily harm" when he assaulted his old school friend Chad Hadden - causing injuries that would lead to the 45-year-old's death five months later - will be the key issue in a murder trial that started in the Supreme Court at Newcastle on Monday.
Crown Prosecutor Lee Carr and Public Defender Peter Krisenthal each gave their opening addresses to the 12-member jury, after Mr Holmes, 45, pleaded guilty to manslaughter but not guilty to murder.
Mr Hadden died in June, 2018, five months after Mr Holmes punched him near Queens Wharf Hotel in Newcastle following an afternoon of drinking beer together on January 14.
The court heard that Mr Hadden remained minimally conscious after the assault and eventually died from complications of blunt force trauma.
Mr Carr said the pair had reconnected at the end of 2017 after falling out of touch for about 20 years.
He said an argument over the whereabouts of Mr Hadden's tobacco pouch became physical between the pair at Queens Wharf Hotel before the altercation was broken-up by security.
Mr Carr said no punches were thrown and Mr Holmes was ejected from the venue before Mr Hadden was asked to leave in the opposite direction about five minutes later.
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The court heard that Mr Hadden approached Mr Holmes soon after and threatened him, before Mr Holmes punched him in the head with a closed fist. Mr Hadden fell and hit his head on the ground.
The assault then allegedly continued - but what happened after the initial punch is an area of dispute between the defence and prosecution parties.
Both Mr Carr and Mr Krisenthal agreed that the evidence of four witnesses, who saw events unfold after Mr Holmes' initial punch, would be key to the case.
Mr Carr said the Crown would argue that Mr Holmes intended to cause serious bodily harm and that witnesses had described how the accused had landed blows on Mr Hadden - who was unresponsive and on his back - before Mr Holmes allegedly walked away and returned to strike him once more.
"What we have here is: boom, down and a continued assault, not once but twice," Mr Carr said.
Mr Krisenthal told the jury Mr Holmes "had an acceptance" that his actions ultimately led to the death of Mr Hadden, but he was acting "without the intent of causing really serious bodily harm".
He said he expected the defence would argue that witness accounts were either inaccurate or unreliable.
"The nub of our case is that he unthinkingly lashed out," Mr Krisenthal said.
The trial continues.
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