The California Supreme Court on Monday reinstated the murder conviction of a former La Jolla High School football player for the 2007 killing of a well-known professional San Diego surfer.
The court said Seth Cravens, a graduate of La Jolla High, knowingly committed a life-threatening act when he punched surfer Emery Kauanui in the head and knocked him to the ground. Kauanui suffered severe head injuries and died a few days later.
A lower court had reduced Cravens’ conviction to manslaughter on the grounds that there was insufficient evidence he meant to kill Kauanui, 24. But Justice Marvin Baxter, writing for the high court, said the nature of the blow, a sucker punch, and Cravens’ behavior before and after the fight showed he acted with “implied malice,” knowingly committing an act that could kill.
Justice Joyce L. Kennard dissented, saying the evidence did not support a murder conviction. Cravens, who was 21 at the time of the crime, was sentenced to 20 years to life. The fight occurred after Kauanui spilled a drink on one of Cravens’ friends at a bar.