Life Sentence Stands for Bird Rock Bandit

Court upholds original sentence for man accused of killing a La Jolla surfer in 2008

By Eric S. Page and Lauren Steussy
|  Monday, Jan 30, 2012  |  Updated 1:40 PM PDT
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Slain Surfer's Mom Speaks

NBCSanDiego

Cravens was sentenced to 20 years to life for his role in the death of a professional surfer in La Jolla in 2007.

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Guilty Verdict in Surfer Slaying Case

A man accused of throwing a fatal punch that killed a professional surfer in May is found guilty of second-degree murder.
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The man who threw the fatal punch central to the Bird Rock Bandits case will stay in prison for 20 years to life -- despite a previous appeal for a shorter sentence.

Seth 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 Aug. 18, 2010, 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. He would only have to serve 16 years.

On Monday however, the California Superior Court reversed the appeal. Craven is still convicted of second-degree murder under a theory of implied malice.


Click here to read the court's official published opinion.


One justice dissented though, saying there wasn't enough evidence of implied malice. Associate Justice Joyce Kennard wrote in the court's opinion that Cravens is right handed, but punched Kauanui with his left hand. So Cravens had less reason to suspect the blow would kill Kauanui.

Also, Kennard said, Cravens punched four other people in the past and didn't kill any of them -- so he had no reason to expect his fifth punch would kill Kauanui.

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.

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