Closing Arguments Wrap Up in Santa Ana Nightclub Beating Trial

The two Santa Ana women could face a maximum of 15 years to life behind bars.

Closing arguments wrapped up Wednesday in the trial of two women who are charged with the beating death of a 23-year-old woman outside a Santa Ana nightclub earlier this year.

Vanesa Tapia Zavala, 26, and Candace Marie Brito, 27, are accused of killing Annie Hung "Kim" Pham (pictured) by kicking her in the head as she was on the ground fighting their friend outside the Crosby Restaurant and Nightclub on Jan. 19, according to a statement from the Orange County District Attorney’s Office.

Zavala and Brito, both of Santa Ana, each face one felony count of murder and one felony count of assault with force likely to produce great bodily injury.

If convicted, the two could face a maximum of 15 years to life behind bars.

Brito's attorney Michael Molfetta said in his closing argument Wednesday that cell phone video of his client's involvement in the Jan. 19 melee that led to Pham's death cannot prove his client's guilt.

"They say a picture's worth a thousand words, but what did that video show you? Not very much," Molfetta said.

Molfetta told the jury that it hasn't been proven Brito "kicked Pham in the scrum." And, he said, "even if you find Ms. Brito landed a kick to the head, you still have to go to causation" of death.

Dr. Etoi Davenport, who performed the autopsy on Pham, testified that she sustained six major blows to the head, and any one of them could have killed her.

Pham was in a fistfight that she started with another woman, identified by defense attorneys as Emilia Calderon, and could have been killed by one of those punches, Molfetta said.

"We have all this evidence that they kicked (Pham) in the head," Senior Deputy District Attorney Troy Pino said Tuesday in his closing argument in the trial of the alleged assailants. "So the issue is, what does the law say about the kicks in the head." 

Jurors will consider second-degree murder or less offenses such as voluntary manslaughter. The defendants also face a charge of assault with force likely to cause great bodily injury and sentence-enhancing allegations of causing great bodily injury.

During the trial, conflicting accounts of the encounter came from witnesses.

Friends of Pham told police that three women attacked her without provocation after the two groups bumped into each other outside the nightclub. Another witness said Pham instigated the fight by shouting obscenities and throwing the first punch after she and her friends bumped into another group exiting the bar.

Portions of the attack were captured on cellphone video as the victim's friends and a security guard unsuccessfully attempted to intervene, officials said.

Pham was hospitalized after the attack and taken off life support Jan. 21.

City News Service contributed to this report.

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