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Closing Arguments Expected in Trial Over Fatal Nightclub Beating

Vanesa Tapia Zavala, 26, and Candace Marie Brito, 27, could face a maximum of 15 years to life behind bars if convicted.

Closing arguments began Tuesday in the case of two women who are charged with the beating death of 23-year-old Annie Hung "Kim" Pham outside a Santa Ana nightclub in January.

Vanesa Tapia Zavala, 26, and Candace Marie Brito, 27, 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 with a sentencing.

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

"We have all this evidence that they kicked (Kim 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."

Officials say Pham was attacked early in the morning of Jan. 19 while waiting in line to get into the Crosby Restaurant and Nightclub.

Zavala and Brito are accused of killing Pham by kicking her in the head as she was on the ground fighting their friend, according to a statement from the Orange County District Attorney’s Office.


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Zavala's attorney, Kenneth Reed, argued that prosecutors failed to prove a cause of death in the case, making acquittal necessary. He also argued that the victim was also punched by others, which could have caused her death, and said his client did not kick Pham.

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

Witnesses called emergency services and Pham was transported to a local hospital where she was put on life support.

She was removed from life support on Jan. 21.

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.

Closing arguments were expected to resume Wednesday.

City News Service contributed to this report.

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