Opening statements have been heard today in the trial of a 21-year-old who allegedly assaulted another man, leaving him fighting for his life.
Police say Joseph Kurene punched the man in the head once with a closed fist, causing him to fall to the ground. He then hit his head again on the road, causing further injuries.
The incident happened in February 2016 when Kurene was driving alone in his car around Palmerston North and the alleged victim was in a car driven by his former partner with two other men inside.
The Crown argues Kurene reacted badly to a verbal exchange between the passengers when the cars stopped beside each other.
Kurene is charged with intent to injure causing grievous bodily harm. He could face seven years in prison.
The judge told the jury the question in the trial is around Kurene's intent when throwing the punch.
Kurene claims he acted in self-defence, as the victim allegedly approached him in an aggressive manner and went to make a move during the altercation.
The former partner of the alleged victim became emotional on the witness stand, telling the court she thought he was dead after being knocked out cold.
She was sober driving for him and two other friends the night he was allegedly assaulted.
She told the court the three men were very "revved up" and were yelling at Joseph Kurene, who was travelling alone in another car.
"At one point race did come into it, (they made) a racial slur, yes."
She said she can't remember who made the racist comment.
She said Kurene then followed them in his car, so she pulled over as she didn't want him to follow them anymore.
She said from her rear view mirror she then saw the victim fall backwards and heard "a loud crack".
"It was like someone had taken his feet out from underneath him… I didn't know how dangerous the situation we were in was."
She said he was completely unresponsive, with blood coming out of his head. She then called 111. The call will be played to the jury as evidence.
The victim required urgent surgery in Wellington Hospital the following morning, having suffered a fractured skull and a brain bleed.
He was in hospital for months and now requires care at home from his parents.