Seth Cravens, the man who threw the fatal punch central to the Bird Rock Bandits case, got some good legal news on Tuesday.
Cravens was found guilty in November 2008 of second-degree murder in the killing of Emery Kauanui, 24. Judge John Einhorn sentenced him to 20 years to life in prison in February 2009.
On Wednesday, Craven's appeal was unanimously granted by the three-judge panel of the 4th District Court of Appeals, which reduced his second-degree murder conviction to voluntary manslaughter. In other legal developments, another count against Cravens -- making a criminal threat -- was dismissed outright by the court of appeals.
Craven's appeal was handled by Randall Bookout, not Mary Ellen Attridge, who defended him during his criminal trial. Attridge told NBCSanDiego she was surprised by Wednesday's court developments.
"It's incredibly rare for an appeal to be granted in a criminal case," Attridge said. "And, secondarily, it is almost impossible to get them to dismiss a count. So Seth has benefited from extraordinary legal good fortune."
The next legal move is up to the state attorney general's office, which will decide whether to take the case to the California Supreme Court. If the state chooses not to pursue the case, it will be kicked back to Judge Einhorn, who will re-sentence Cravens for the voluntary manslaughter conviction.
During his trial, Cravens was accused of delivering the punch that killed Kauanui in May 2007. The professional surfer hit his head and died in the hospital a few days later. Prosecutors said the scuffle stemmed from a dispute that started earlier at a bar.
Cravens, who is currently being held at Donovan State Prison, was also convicted in 2009 of four counts of assault likely to produce great bodily injury and a single misdemeanor count of battery. The jury found Cravens not guilty of several additional counts of assault likely to produce great bodily injury and simple assault.
Four co-defendants -- Orlando Osuna, Eric House, Matthew Yanke and Hank Hendricks -- pleaded guilty to lesser charges in the death of Kauanui.