Guilty plea ends stabbing trial

GUILTY: Young Jae Lee stabbed a man twice in the head.
GUILTY: Young Jae Lee stabbed a man twice in the head.

The theory of alcohol idiosyncratic intoxication never got its day in court.

A negotiated guilty plea has brought an early end to a Christchurch stabbing trial once it became clear that the proposed defence would not stand close scrutiny.

Before the trial's second day started, Korean Young Jae Lee pleaded guilty to a slightly reduced charge of injuring with intent to cause grievous bodily harm, instead of wounding.

Judge Jane Farish in the Christchurch District Court remanded him on bail for sentencing on August 13, and asked for a pre-sentence report to cover his suitability for home detention, and a victim impact report on the man he stabbed twice in the head, and in the arm.

If the 25-year-old Korean is sentenced to jail or a lengthy term of home detention he will face a second jail term when he returns to Korea for not reporting before the end of this year to carry out his national military service.

Judge Farish said she was not making any promises. She was not sure if she would be sending him to prison, but he needed to be prepared.

The charge he had pleaded guilty to was still very serious, she told him as he stood distressed and sometimes crying in the dock.

Expert witnesses never got to clash about the defence theory that Lee had been suffering from alcohol idiosyncratic intoxication - known as AII - when he stabbed the visitor to his apartment after a night of drinking Korean rice wine, Soju, on January 19, 2011.

The defence team had begun the four-day trial planning to propose that Lee's actions in stabbing the man with a large kitchen knife, fitted the symptoms of AII.

But in evidence on the trial's first afternoon, Crown prosecutor Marcus Zintl presented evidence about earlier destructive incidents when Lee drank too much alcohol - evidence that badly affected the defence theory.

Judge Farish explained to the jury that this week's hearing had been a retrial, because the first trial had been stopped for "technical issues" in December 2012.

Since the first trial, further evidence had emerged about Lee's earlier behaviour.

AII involved sometimes erratic and aggressive behaviour that was "idiosyncratic - out of the norm", she said.

The new information emerged in a statement obtained after the first trial from Lee's sister, who shares an apartment with him in Christchurch. It detailed the earlier incidents and showed he became agitated and moody when he had been drinking.

Judge Farish told the jury: "When the psychiatrists heard that evidence, the defence psychiatrist very properly informed [the defence team, husband and wife Nick Rout and Miranda Rout] that because of his past behaviour, Mr Lee did not fit within the definition of AII.

"That left Mr Lee in a very difficult position in terms of having a defence."

She said she would want to know about Lee's drinking behaviour before the sentencing, but Nick Rout said Lee had been frightened by the incident, and his bail conditions had forbidden him to drink, so he had not touched alcohol again.

The judge gave Lee a first-strike warning under the system that imposes heavier penalties on repeat violent offenders.

The Press