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Cellphone video plays key role in nightclub beating death trial

By Associated Press

LAST UPDATED: 07:04 p.m. HST, Jul 09, 2014

SANTA ANA, Calif. » The murder trial of two California women charged with kicking another woman to death in a brawl outside a popular nightclub began Wednesday with both sides showing the jury cellphone footage of the melee.

The blurry, seconds-long videos are expected to be critical evidence used by both prosecutors and defense in the trial of Vanesa Zavala, 26, and Candace Brito, 27, who were arrested in the death of newlywed and aspiring writer Annie Hung Kim Pham.

Pham, 23, died after being taken off life support several days after the attack, which occurred in the early hours of Jan. 18 outside The Crosby, a trendy bar in downtown Santa Ana.

Defense attorneys for the two women told jurors in opening statements that their clients' actions that night were in self-defense.

"You're allowed to hit a person back when they hit you. It's as simple as that," said Zavala's lawyer, Kenneth Reed, according to the Orange County Register.

Both women have pleaded not guilty to murder and to a related count of assault.

Prosecutor Troy Pino said, however, that while Pham might have thrown the first punch, it didn't excuse the blows to the head that she received as the confrontation escalated — particularly when she was on the ground, struggling.

Pino conceded that the video might be difficult to follow, but that eyewitnesses he will call to testify can fill in the gaps, proving Brito and Zavala's guilt.

At the preliminary hearing earlier this year, witnesses testified that Pham and her group of 11 friends were waiting in line to get into the club as Brito, Zavala and several of their friends were exiting.

At some point, the groups bumped into each other.

One witness told authorities that Pham started swearing and threw the first punch. But Pham's friends told police the three women in the other group attacked Pham without provocation after they bumped into her.

Zavala told police that Pham's first swing hit her and the fight began.

Defense attorneys have repeatedly indicated that Pham's friends might have minimized her role in the fight and their own involvement.

A forensic pathologist who conducted Pham's autopsy ruled the cause of death was blunt force injury to the head but said it was impossible to tell whether one specific blow caused the fatal brain bleeding or if it came from a combination of blows.

Pham, who went by the first name Kim, graduated from Chapman University last year and would have celebrated her first wedding anniversary earlier this year.

She was an aspiring writer whose work was published online and in an anthology of works by Vietnamese-American writers.

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lwandcah wrote:
There ain't no good that comes out of hanging around bars or other similar establishments.
on July 9,2014 | 07:20PM
HanabataDays wrote:
If she was beaten or kicked while she was on the ground defenseless, that's no longer legitimate self-defense. And if they acted in concert ("as a gang"), then they're jointly and severally liable for the outcome.
on July 10,2014 | 05:40AM
suzyq47 wrote:
Yep, guilty...guilty...guilty for murder in the first degree, plain and simple!
on July 10,2014 | 04:05PM
lokela wrote:
Sounds guilty to me.
on July 10,2014 | 06:44AM
saveparadise wrote:
If you on the ground and get your head pounded you die. If you on the ground and shoot the person pounding your head you go on trial for murder. If you on top and pound someone's head till they dead you go on trial for murder. If you on top pounding someone's head and you get shot then you dead. Sure looks like a no win situation either way. Grieving families all around. Don't drink and don't fight.
on July 10,2014 | 09:32AM
inverse wrote:
Agreed. NO WAY the Deedy case can be for either 1st or 2nd degree murder. Fact is Deedy was on his back on the floor and who knows if Elderts got the upper hand without Deedy using his weapon that Deedy would not end up dead like this woman Pham OR even Dinaan who was supposedly was under suspicion for theft of an off-duty firemans truck and end up dead. Deedy should be held accountable but NOT for murder. Prosectors office said there was no case with HPD or the fireman with Dinaan but KHON took pictures of Dinaan unconscious and almost every inch of his exposed skin was covered in bruises.
on July 10,2014 | 11:27AM
1R1E wrote:
when i press play on the vid, it disappears....
on July 10,2014 | 12:55PM
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