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Was O.C. Beating Justified by Victim's Gang Affiliation?

Recent information indicates that a victim of a Santa Ana nightclub beating had friends with Asian gang affiliations. Attorneys representing the two women charged with murder and assault in conjunction with the incident claim that this new information could "change everything in terms of the tenor of the case."

Vanesa Tapia Zavala and Candace Marie Brito are facing charges of murder and assault after beating and killing Kim Pham outside of a nightclub on January 18. According to Zavala and Brito's defense attorneys, new evidence connects Pham with an Asian gang, which could potentially justify the women's actions.

"It explains and justifies my clients' fear for themselves," said the attorney.

Prosecutors disagree.

The prosecutor dealing with the case says that while some gang slogans may have been exchanged in a separate brawl that occurred on the same night, this particular altercation was not gang-related. Both city officials and law enforcement stated they did not believe the nightclub beating had any gang affiliation or racial implications.

The defense attorneys not only believe this fight was gang-related, but that Zavala and Brito were actually the victims - Pham was the aggressor and the one who instigated the fight.

According to the prosecutor, this doesn't matter. Regardless of who started the fight, Zavala and Brito finished it. The prosecutor believes evidence suggests that Zavala and Brito continued to beat Pham while she was down.

At a preliminary hearing last Friday, prosecutors added "assault likely to cause great bodily injury" charges on top of the defendants' murder charges. What this means is that the jury now has options. Even if they do not find the two guilty of murder, they could find them guilty of the lesser assault charges.