Surfer death trial continues today

Defense scheduled to give closing argument

The defense is scheduled to give its closing argument today in the trial of a man charged with murder for delivering a fatal punch to the chin of a professional surfer at the end of a fight in La Jolla last year.

Seth Cravens, 22, is charged in the death last May of 24-year-old Emery Kauanui and faces 15 years to life in state prison if he’s convicted of second-degree murder. His attorney, Mary Ellen Attridge, said Cravens punched the victim in self-defense.

She said Kauanui and the others had been drinking heavily at the Brew House at an end-of-school year celebration on May 24, 2007, with many friends who had attended La Jolla High School.

Attridge said Kauanui, who was there with girlfriend Jennifer Grosso, either spilled or poured a drink on Eric House, sparking a brief confrontation. All of the participants in the fight that night had been long-time friends, Attridge told the jury in her opening statement.

She said Cravens, House, Matthew Yanke, Orlando Osuna and Hank 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.

In her closing argument Friday, Deputy District Attorney Sophia Roach

urged jurors to convict Cravens of second-degree murder because he instigated

and encouraged the group melee.

The force that Cravens 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.

Cravens, House, Osuna, Hendricks and Yanke participated in a group beating in which Kauanui was punched, kicked and stood up against a palm tree, Roach told the jury.

She said that after Kauanui and House fought, an intoxicated Kauanui yelled at Cravens for jumping him at his home. Cravens then punched him, she added, causing him to hit his head on the pavement and suffer brain injuries that claimed his life four days later.

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.

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.

“This is not an accident,’' she told the jury. “Why would you take five people to fight one person? To ensure victory.’'

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.

Cravens is also charged with nine other counts - including assault, battery and making a criminal threat in connection with prior incidents dating back to 2005.

House, 21, Osuna, 23, Hendricks, 22, and Yanke, also 22, pleaded guilty to lesser charges stemming from Kauanui’s death and were sentenced to time in local custody.