The defense and prosecution finished their closing arguments in the Kim Pham trial today. The three-hour court session capped a trial that has now gone on for exactly two weeks. Jury deliberation should begin this afternoon, following final jury instruction from Judge Thomas Goethals after lunch.
The day opened with Michael Molfetta's defense of Candace Brito, one of the two women accused of kicking Kim Pham in the head the early morning of Jan. 19, which the State contends lead to her death. The veteran defense lawyer started his argument by lightheartedly praising Deputy District Attorney Troy Pino, apologizing to Pham's family for the death of their daughter, and commenting on how going third reminded him of picking a band for his wedding.
He quickly got into his argument however, conceding that while what happened was a tragedy, it was unfair to pin the responsibility on solely Brito and Vanesa Zavala.
"There's a tragedy that 30-some-odd people are responsible for, that 30-some-odd people took part in, and we're going to have these two bear the burden?" Molfetta asked.
Much like Reed, who made his argument the day before, Molfetta seized on the questions of whether or not the prosecution had successfully proved that Brito's actions caused Pham's death, if Pham's friends had lied on the stand or to police, and if it was possible Brito was acting in defense of Emilia.
"There were consequences of [Pham] lighting that powder keg," Molfetta said as several of Pham's friends cried in the audience. "The consequences were dire. The consequences were horrible. The consequences were tragic, but it was not [Brito and Zavala's] fault."
In addition, he also did his best to remove the jury's emotions from their decisions, multiple times stressing that they needed to deliberate with their heads, not their guts, and claiming that Pino needed the jury to "emotionally manipulate" the evidence and the law to come to a conviction.
"Senseless. Tragedy. It is a tragedy," Molfetta said. "But is [a conviction] going to change any grief? Is it going to mend any hearts? Is it going to make anything better?"
Molfetta took the final moments of his closing argument to prime the jury for Pino's rebuttal, which would take place after morning recess, again referencing Pino's abilities as a prosecutor and as a lawyer. Similarly, Pino started his rebuttal by addressing Molfetta's allegedly disingenuous public apology and the concept of lawyering and how good Molfetta was at it.
"This is a tragedy?" Pino wondered. "Natural disasters, cancer, people dying on the highway: Those are tragedies. This is criminal."
He went on to address Kenneth Reed and Molfetta's closing arguments point-by-point, addressing every instance where he felt they stretched the evidence or presented something without context.
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He finished his argument with an apology and a thanks to the jury. A thank you for their service, and an apology for not joking as much as the defense did during testimony and arguments, a conclusion, he says, of the weight of the events and the heavy legal burden to prove the case.
"My courtroom demeanor is more serious," he said. "On this side of the table, we have a dead girl."