Shane murder trial to begin next week

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Sina Khankhanian, 28, faces a charge of second-degree murder in the April 2010 death of Malibu eighth-grader Emily Shane.

By Knowles Adkisson / The Malibu Times

A trial is scheduled to begin for Sina Khankhanian next week, more than a year and a half after he struck and killed 13-year-old Emily Shane as she walked along Pacific Coast Highway. Khankhanian faces one charge of second-degree murder for allegedly hitting Shane on purpose on April 3, 2010 after driving recklessly for miles along PCH in an apparent attempt to end his own life.

Bradley Brunon, Khankhanian’s attorney, said he expected jury selection to begin Tuesday. Jury selection usually takes two days, Brunon said, after which the trial would begin in earnest. Michel Shane, the father of Emily Shane, said he had been told by Deputy District Attorney Marna Miller, who is prosecuting the case, to expect a trial to last three weeks with morning and afternoon sessions each day.

The case has encountered numerous delays in the 21 months since Shane was killed. Khankhanian pleaded not guilty to a charge of second-degree murder after a January 2010 preliminary hearing. A pretrial conference to set a trial date was postponed multiple times while the prosecution and defense reviewed psychological testing performed on Khankhanian. A trial was eventually set for September, but those plans were shelved after Miller could not schedule enough eyewitnesses to the crime in time for the impending trial. Facing a deadline required by law, Miller decided to refile the case and start over. Brunon at the time criticized the move, saying the prosecution was “kind of disorganized.”

“There’s no more delays,” Michel Shane said Friday last week. “It’s either going to happen or they’ll try and figure out some sort of plea. But as of right now there’s no plea on the table.”

Shane said Miller, who did not return calls for comment by The Malibu Times, had offered the defense a plea deal to avoid a trial, which the defense had rejected.

Brunon would not confirm or deny whether a plea deal had been considered.

“Those are not proper subjects for public discussion if I have or haven’t [considered a plea deal],” Brunon said last Friday week. He did add that Miller was “not being very cooperative, that’s the case.”

Shane said he could not divulge the terms of the plea deal publicly, but the prosecution and defense have butted heads consistently over the length of time Khankhanian should spend in prison.

Brunon has argued that a second-degree murder charge, which carries a sentence of 15 years to life imprisonment in a state prison for intentionally killing another person, is too harsh. Brunon says Khankhanian killed Shane unintentionally due to recklessness and should be charged with gross vehicular manslaughter. That charge carries a sentence of one to 10 years in a county jail or state prison.

However, Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Kathryn Solorzano in October denied a request by the defense to add the lesser charge as an option for a jury to consider.

While he cautioned there could always be delays in the legal process, Brunon said he was preparing for the trial to begin next week.

“The choice is not guilt or innocence,” Brunon said. “The choice is guilt versus not guilt of the charge they’ve accused him of. And I don’t think he intended to kill the girl and I don’t think anybody that knows the facts thinks that.”

Shane said he was looking forward to a trial rather than a plea deal.

“We would like a trial because we would like him to be convicted and thrown away for as long as possible,” Shane said.