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Jury proclaiming itself deadlocked; deliberations continue

With the jury proclaiming itself deadlocked, deliberations will continue for a sixth day today in the trial of a man charged with killing a professional surfer by punching him once in the head during a fight in La Jolla last year.

Jurors on Monday told San Diego Superior Court Judge John Einhorn they were deadlocked 11-1 on a charge of second-degree murder against Seth Cravens, but they did not indicate which way they were leaning.

Einhorn decided to send the panel back for more deliberations after some jurors indicated that clarifying the legal terminology might help them break the deadlock.

The jury then sent a note to the judge asking about the legal definition of items such as “conscious disregard for human life’’ and “implied malice.’'

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The judge indicated he would tell jurors to refer back to his earlier instructions on the law.

Prosecutors claim 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 did reach verdicts on several counts unrelated to Kauanui’s death, and Einhorn said those would be read today, regardless of whether the jury reached a unanimous verdict on the murder charge, or the lesser included offenses of voluntary or involuntary manslaughter.

In addition to the murder/manslaughter charge, Cravens is also facing assault, battery and making a criminal threat in connection with other violent incidents dating back to 2005.

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Jurors on Friday asked for a read-back of testimony from Jennifer Grosso, the girlfriend of the 24-year-old Kauanui.

Grosso was at the scene when Kauanui was knocked out by Craven’s single punch, fell backward and hit his head on the pavement.

In closing arguments, defense attorney Mary Ellen Attridge told the jury 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.

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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 the fight represented a group beating on Kauanui by House, Cravens, Hank Hendricks, Orlando Osuna and Matthew Yanke.

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.