Jury still deliberating fate of man accused in surfer’s death
Jurors deliberating the fate of a man accused of causing the death of a professional surfer by punching him in the head during a fight in La Jolla asked Friday for readback of testimony from a key prosecution witness.
Deliberating for a fourth day in the trial of Seth Cravens, the jury re-heard the testimony of Jennifer Grosso, the girlfriend of 24-year-old Emery Kauanui, who was punched by Cravens on May 24, 2007.
Grosso was at the scene when Kauanui was knocked out by the single punch, fell backward and hit his head on the pavement. He died four days later from brain injuries.
Cravens, 22, is charged with second-degree murder, as well as other counts unrelated to Kauanui’s death. The defendant faces 15 years to life in prison if convicted on the murder charge.
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 manslaughter or involuntary manslaughter either.
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 own 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.