Nightclub beating: Attorney says Kim Pham caused her own death


A video of a brawl outside a Santa Ana nightclub that left a recent college graduate comatose was played repeatedly Wednesday as attorneys for two women charged in the attack told jurors their clients don’t deserve to be convicted for the 23-year-old’s death.

Kim Pham was pronounced dead days after the Jan. 18 altercation outside the Crosby, a then-trendy nightspot in Santa Ana’s historic district. Vanesa Tapia Zavala and Candace Marie Brito are standing trial for murder in Pham’s death

During opening arguments, Brito’s attorney, Michael Molfetta, told jurors that it was Pham’s own “poor decisions” that led to her death.


“She didn’t deserve to die, but the fact is she died because she took umbrage over a bump,” Molfetta said, offering jurors his version of the events that led up to the brawl.

Zavala’s attorney also said his client had been wrongly charged with murder and that she had a right to defend herself after being attacked by Pham.

Kenneth Reed also predicted that jurors will ultimately be unable to determine which blow actually killed Pham during the chaotic scene outside the nightclub.

“She can’t tell you if it was one blow at the beginning, one blow that happened at the end or one blow that happened in the middle,” Reed said of the medical examiner’s expected testimony.

Senior Deputy Dist. Atty. Troy Pino, though, said the two women deserve to be punished for Pham’s death.

Pino said that at one point Zavala, who was pushed away from the fight, returns to the scrum and deals a final blow to Pham before Pham fell to the pavement unconscious.


“Let the criminal system do its job and find justice for the victim,” Pino said.

The case drew enormous attention after Pham’s death, in part because of initial reports that dozens of bystanders stood around, some shooting video, failing to intervene as the fight escalated. The prosecutor, though, has said that more than 15 people actually tried to come to Pham’s aid.

Friends and family have described Pham as a bubbly, high-achieving woman who recently graduated from Chapman University and aspired to be a journalist.

During a preliminary hearing earlier this year, defense attorneys painted a darker picture, saying Pham had been drinking the night of the fight, was argumentative and “lit the match” that started the brawl.

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