A young man who delivered a fatal punch to a professional surfer at the end of a group fight in La Jolla last year should be convicted of murder because he instigated and encouraged the melee, a prosecutor said Friday.
In her closing argument in the trial of Seth Cravens, Deputy District
Attorney Sophia Roach urged jurors to reject the defendant’s claim that he punched 24-year-old Emery Kauanui in self-defense.
Cravens’ defense attorney will present her closing arguments Monday.
The force that Cravens, 22, used in hitting Kauanui was comparable to
the victim getting hit in the head with a hammer or a baseball bat or what could occur in a car accident, the prosecutor said.
Roach said Cravens had punched people in the face before and knew the
dangers of doing so.
The prosecutor said Cravens went to Kauanui’s home about 1:30 a.m. on
May 24, 2007, with four friends, encouraging one of them, Eric House, to fight Kauanui.
Once there, all of the men -- Cravens, House, Orlando Osuna, Hank Hendricks and Matthew Yanke -- participated in a group beating in which Kauanui was punched, kicked and stood up against a palm tree, Roach told the jury.
After Kauanui and House had fought, an intoxicated and disoriented
Kauanui yelled at Cravens for jumping him at his home, and Cravens stepped off a curb and punched him, knocking him out and sending him into a free fall where he hit his head on the pavement, the prosecutor said.
Kauanui suffered major brain injuries and died four days later at a
By punching Kauanui with such severe force, Cravens acted with a conscious disregard for human life, Roach told the jury. She said that under the implied malice theory, the defendant did not have to intend to kill the victim when he delivered the fatal blow.
A neighbor who witnessed the beginning of the fight called 911 after she saw four to five males aggressively approaching a lone man on the street below, the prosecutor said.
“She could hear flesh hitting flesh as she called 911,” Roach said of
The husband of that neighbor saw a “rugby-like scrum” in which fists
were flying, the prosecutor said.
When Cravens hit Kauanui, the victim’s arms were like noodles and he hit his head with a `"sickening thud,” the prosecutor told the jury.
The day after the fight, Cravens told a man who called him that if
Kauanui were to come at him again, he would do the same thing, Roach said.
“Emery was winning (the fight) so I knocked him out. I beat his ass,”
Cravens told another friend, according to Roach.
Cravens told another friend, “I put him to sleep,” the prosecutor said.
Roach argued the fatal blow was an intentional act that was delivered
during a course of conduct that night.
“This is not an accident,” she told the jury. “Why would you take
five people to fight one person? To ensure victory.”
Roach urged the jury to reject the testimony of Yanke and Hendricks, who said Cravens punched Kauanui after he fought with House.
The case was not a case of voluntary manslaughter or heat of passion,
the prosecutor said.
“This was just somebody who’s (expletive) off and he wants to deliver a message ... and he doesn’t care who he hurts,” Roach told the jury.
Defense attorney Mary Ellen Attridge is scheduled to give her closing
The attorney unsuccessfully moved Thursday to have the murder count
dismissed, telling Judge John Einhorn that the prosecution presented no evidence that the right-handed Cravens knew that one punch with his left hand could kill someone.
Attridge said in her opening statement that Kauanui’s death was a tragedy, but maintained that Cravens’ actions did not rise to the level of murder and was in fact self-defense.
She said Kauanui and the others had been drinking heavily at the Brew
House at an end-of-school year celebration with many friends who had attended La Jolla High School.
Attridge said Kauanui, who was there with Grosso, either spilled or
poured a drink on House, sparking a brief confrontation. All of the
participants in the fight that night had been long-time friends, Attridge told the jury.
She said the bar manager asked Kauanui to leave because he was severely intoxicated. The victim’s blood-alcohol level was later measured at .17 percent, and he had smoked marijuana that night, Attridge said.
The attorney said House and Kauanui had stupidly argued about who was
more local to the area.
Once Kauanui was driven home by girlfriend Jennifer Grosso, he called
House, Cravens and other friends about the beef at the bar, Attridge said.
She said Cravens, House, Yanke, Osuna and Hendricks went to Kauanui’s
home with the plan for it to be a one-on-one fight between Kauanui and House.
The punch thrown by Cravens, in combination with the drugs and alcohol
consumed by Kauanui, caused him to lose consciousness and hit his head, causing his death, Attridge told the jury.
Cravens faces 15 years to life in state prison if convicted of murder.
He is also charged with nine other counts including assault, battery and making a criminal threat in connection with prior incidents dating back to
House, 21, Osuna, 23, Hendricks, 22, and Yanke, also 22, pleaded guiltyto lesser charges stemming from Kauanui’s death and were sentenced to time in local custody.