The time between a slaying and the court trial for the person or people believed to be responsible can often be years, but the strategy of those defending the presumed killers of Kim Pham outside The Crosby nightclub in Santa Ana on Jan. 18 has been to get this thing going as soon as possible. They got their wish Friday when Orange County Superior Court Judge Thomas Goethals set a trial date of April 14 for Candace Marie Brito, 27, and Vanesa Tapia Zavala, 25, who have pleaded not guilty to 23-year-old Pham's murder by savage beating.
A criminal defendant has a right to a speedy trial, but court procedures filed by the defense and/or prosecution can often delay the actual opening.
Michael Molfetta, who represents Brito, has been very vocal in the media saying the evidence, including cell phone video, unveiled so far by Deputy District Attorney Troy Pino pokes holes in the prosecution's contention that his client and Zavala brutally attacked a defenseless Pham.
Molfetta has claimed Pham started the melee, that she was the aggressor and that she was with a group composed of people with ties to Asian gangs.
Meanwhile, Pino and Santa Ana police investigators have publicly stated they need more witnesses to come forward, calling this an ongoing investigation. Starting a trial sooner rather than later could allow a crafty defense to ram a message of reasonable doubt through whatever holes remain in the story of what actually happened that night.
Before the trial starts, Brito and Zavala are due back in court March 21 for a pre-trial hearing.
OC Weekly Editor-in-Chief Matt Coker has been engaging, enraging and entertaining readers of newspapers, magazines and websites for decades. He spent the first 13 years of his career in journalism at daily newspapers before “graduating” to OC Weekly in 1995 as the alternative newsweekly’s first calendar editor.