Jury back to deliberations on surfer’s death
Jurors will continue their deliberations Tuesday morning on the fate of a man accused accused of killing a professional surfer by punching him once in the head during a fight in La Jolla.
On Monday they told a judge they were deadlocked 11-1 on a charge of second-degree murder.
Prosecutors claim Seth Cravens, 22, punched Emery Kauanui during a fight outside the victim’s home in La Jolla on May 24, 2007. Kauanui died four days later.
Jurors, who were deliberating for a fifth day on Monday, told San Diego Superior Court Judge John Einhorn they were deadlocked - but they did not indicate which way they were leaning. Einhorn decided to send the panel back for more deliberations after some indicated that receiving definitions of legal terms might help them break the deadlock.
The jury resumed deliberating, and later sent a note asking about the legal definition of terms such as implied malice.
Jurors on Friday asked for a readback of testimony from Jennifer Grosso, the girlfriend of the 24-year-old Kauanui.
Grosso was at the scene when Kauanui was knocked out by the single punch, fell backward and hit his head on the pavement.
In addition to second-degree murder, Cravens is charged with other counts unrelated to the Kauanui’s death.
Defense attorney Mary Ellen Attridge told the jury in her closing argument that Cravens acted in self-defense. She said her client wasn’t guilty of voluntary or involuntary manslaughter.
Attridge said Cravens, who is right-handed, punched Kauanui once with his left hand when the victim got up from a one-on-one fight with Eric House, then screamed at Cravens from five inches away.
Grosso testified that Kauanui had been losing the fight with House when Cravens walked up and hit him, causing Kauanui to fall “like the lights went out.’'
Grosso said she heard her boyfriend’s skull crack on the ground and thought he was dead on the scene.
Attridge said Kauanui and House had been kicked out of the nearby La Jolla Brew House bar following a drink-spilling incident, after which Kauanui had threatened to kick House’s “ass.’'
The attorney suggested Kauanui was in a “homicidal state of mind,’' and therefore Cravens’ actions were reasonable under the circumstances.
She said the prosecution failed to show that Cravens acted with a conscious disregard for human life and that he had the right to use the amount of force necessary to help House, who just had the “tar’’ beaten out of him by Kauanui.
The attorney said prosecutor Sophia Roach failed to prove that the fight was a group beating on Kauanui by House, Cravens, Hank Hendricks, Orlando Osuna and Matthew Yanke.
But Roach, in her closing rebuttal argument, said Cravens did not react reasonably when Kauanui confronted him after being beaten in front of his house.
The prosecutor said Kauanui was in the middle of a “moving scrum’’ when the defendants attacked him, saying he had the right to defend himself.
The question for the jury, Roach said, is whether it would excuse or justify Cravens’ conduct, saying the defendant had no claim to self-defense. Prosecutors also charged Cravens with assault, battery and making a criminal threat in connection with a number of prior violent incidents dating back to 2005.
House, 21, Osuna, 23, Hendricks, 22, and Yanke, 22, pleaded guilty to lesser charges stemming from Kauanui’s death and were sentenced to time in local custody.