Shane trial ends in hung jury


The 12-member jury could not agree whether Sina Khankhanian was guilty of murder or gross vehicular manslaughter in the April 2010 death of Emily Shane. The case will likely start over later this year.

By Knowles Adkisson / The Malibu Times

A judge declared a hung jury Tuesday in the murder trial for the man who fatally struck 13-year-old Emily Shane with his car as she walked along Pacific Coast Highway in 2010. The jury of eight men and four women was unable to come to a consensus on whether Sina Khankhanian, 28, should be convicted of second-degree murder or the lesser charge of gross vehicular manslaughter. The ruling, which is the same as a mistrial, likely means there will be a second trial.

“Obviously we’re very upset, we thought we’d have closure, we thought he’d be found guilty beyond a reasonable doubt,” Ellen Shane, Emily Shane’s mother, said Tuesday.

Khankhanian’s attorney, Bradley Brunon, could not be reached for comment.

A court date is set for Feb. 22, and a decision on the start of a new trial should be made within 60 days thereafter.

The trial began Jan. 17 and the prosecution and defense made final arguments last Thursday, Jan. 26.

The jury began deliberations that afternoon and continued all day Friday. After breaking for the weekend, jurors notified Judge Katherine Mader on Monday morning they were deadlocked. Mader at the time refused to accept a hung jury and instructed them to continue, but by Tuesday afternoon the jury was still divided and Mader declared a mistrial.

Four different votes were taken, starting at 9-3 in favor of the murder charge, but the last vote was 7 to 5, according to Michel Shane.

The jury apparently could not agree whether Khankhanian was guilty of second-degree murder or gross vehicular manslaughter.

Second-degree murder is defined under California law as the killing of another person “with malice aforethought.” It carries a sentence of 15 years to life imprisonment in state prison.

Gross vehicular manslaughter is the unintentional killing of another person, through gross negligence, while driving a motor vehicle. “Gross negligence” is defined as a reckless disregard for the safety of others and includes such acts as speeding, reckless driving and drunk driving. It carries a sentence of one to 10 years in a county jail or state prison.

On April 3, 2010, Khankhanian left a suicide note in his house and drove off in his car.

Several witnesses testified to Khankhanian’s reckless driving on a 17-mile stretch that included Topanga Canyon Boulevard, then north on Pacific Coast Highway through Malibu until the accident near the intersection with Heathercliff Road, where, in addition to fatally striking Shane, the car collided with a power pole.

Prosecutor Marna Miller argued Khankhanian was guilty because he was angry and knew his reckless driving could endanger other people. Khankhanian’s attorney, Bradley Brunon, argued that his client could not comprehend the effect his actions might have on others because he suffered from autism and Tourette syndrome.

In her closing arguments, Miller compared the situation to someone who shoots a gun in the air and kills an innocent person; Miller said that person would be guilty of second-degree murder because they knew their actions could cause harm.

Ellen Shane said Tuesday she was perplexed why the judge, Katherine Mader, did not give an answer when the jury on Tuesday asked for clarification on whether a person must have intent to kill in order to be found guilty of second-degree murder.

Mader instead referred the jury back to the definition of the crime, rather than answer the question, Shane said.

“The answer is clearly no,” Shane said. “I don’t know if the person or people who were asking that got that. Because that’s a huge component of the case whether he had intent to kill, and I don’t know if [the jury] got that.”