Jury still out in surfer death case
Jurors ended a third day of deliberations Thurssday without reaching a verdict in the trial of a La Jolla man charged with second-degree murder for throwing a punch that resulted in the death of a professional surfer last year.
Seth Cravens, 22, faces 15 years to life if convicted in the May 2007 death of 24-year-old Emery Kauanui.
Jurors, who will resume their closed-door discussion at 9 a.m. tomorrow, passed three notes to Judge John Einhorn Thursday asking for readback of testimony.
They have been deliberating since Monday, although they were off on Veterans Day.
In her closing argument, defense attorney Mary Ellen Attridge told the jury that Cravens acted in self-defense.
She 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.
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 said Kauanui called House and Cravens after leaving the bar, “looking for a fight.’' Kauanui also called a friend just minutes before the fight, telling him “I’ve got (a) beef at my house ... and I’m gonna kill ‘em,’' she said.
The attorney suggested Kauanui was in a “homicidal state of mind,’' and therefore Cravens’ actions were reasonable under the circumstances.
A number of witnesses who happened upon the fight said they saw Kauanui get up from the fight with House and get in the face of Cravens, saying “What the (expletive)? What the (expletive)?’' Attridge told the jury.
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.
Cravens, said Attridge, was not guilty of voluntary manslaughter because the death didn’t happen in the heat of passion. The attorney said the law on involuntary manslaughter didn’t apply either.
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.
“Mr. Kauanui had a right to use self-defense,’' Roach told the jury. “He was fighting for his life.’'
Before he left the bar, Kauanui asked to be escorted out because he was afraid, Roach told the jury.
“He knew it was going to be a group attack,’' the prosecutor said.
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.
“This was a planned and deliberate act,’' Roach said.
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.