Judge Rejects Dismissal of Murder Charges in Kim Pham Beating Death Case: Update

See the update at the end of this post on the judge rejecting the defense motion to dismiss the charges.

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ORIGINAL POST, APRIL 15, 7:08 A.M.: A judge today could dismiss the charges against the two Santa Ana women accused of beating Kim Pham to death outside The Crosby on Jan. 19. Or, Orange County Superior Court Judge Thomas Goethals could stick to the scheduled May 5 trial opening--or even delay the proceedings that have been sped up at the request of the defense attorneys for Candace Marie Brito and Vanesa Tapia Zavala.

You know, the same attorneys seeking dismissals.

Kim Pham Murder Trial Set to Begin April 14

Goethals, who has already heard arguments from the defense and prosecution about how the charges should he dismissed/upheld, previously explained he needed until today to decide so he could get another look at cell phone video showing the beating.

But the same judge has also indicated the trial may have to start later than Cinco de Mayo.

Candace-Marie-Brito-and-Vanesa-Tapia-Zavala.jpg
Candace Marie Brito (left) and Vanesa Tapia Zavala

Brito, 27, and Zavala, 25, are charged with second-degree murder, assault with force likely to cause great bodily injury and a sentence-enhancing allegation of causing great
bodily injury in connection with the death of Annie Hung "Kim" Pham, whose family took her off life support two days after her savage beating.

Zavala has said she, Brito, their boyfriends and a friend named Amelia were leaving the nightclub when Amelia got into an argument with Pham, who Zavala and Brito wanted to ignore. But when Pham took a swing at Amelia, she hit Zavala instead, a moment witnesses have marked as the moment all hell broke loose.

It was further claimed by Zavala that she was on the ground when the melee went on. But Santa Ana Police Detective Patricia Navarro has testified a witness reported seeing Zavala waiting for her chance to kick and punch Pham while she was on the ground being beaten by two other women.

Defense attorney Michael Molfetta, who represents Brito, has claimed Pham started the fight, that she was the aggressor and that she was with a group composed of people with ties to Asian gangs who were throwing out gang slogans and showing off gang tattoos. Prosecutor Anthony Pino has denied the incident was gang related.

UPDATE, APRIL 15, NOON: Judge Thomas Goethals conceded in court this morning that police apparently withheld some evidence that could have been helpful to defense attorneys but decided that was not enough of a transgression to warrant dismissal of the charges against Candace Marie Brito and Vanesa Tapia Zavala.

So as it stands now, the pair are due back in court April 25 for a pretrial hearing, and the trial is tentatively set for May 5, although Brito's attorney Michael Molfetta told City News Service the start date may be changed depending on the availability of a defense expert.

Email: mcoker@ocweekly.com. Twitter: @MatthewTCoker. Follow OC Weekly on Twitter @ocweekly or on Facebook!


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