Retrial in Shane case enters second week

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Emily Shane

A firefighter says in new testimony Sina Khankhanian told him he meant to strike 13-year-old Emily Shane in his car as she walked along Pacific Coast Highway in April 2010.

By Knowles Adkisson / Associate Editor

A second trial for 28-year-old Sina Khankhanian, the man charged with second-degree murder in the April 3, 2010 death of eighth-grader Emily Shane, is in its second week. Two days into the new trial, a firefighter on Friday gave what appears to be new testimony that a profane and frustrated Khankhanian said after the accident that he intended to strike the 13-year-old Shane as she walked along Pacific Coast Highway near Heathercliff Road.

Los Angeles County firefighter Doug Smith responded to the scene after Khankhanian had struck Shane in his car, which then collided with a power pole and flipped over. According to media reports, Smith testified Khankhanian was “verbalizing colorful metaphors in a hostile and angry way.”

When Deputy District Attorney Marna Miller asked Smith what specific language Khankhanian used, Smith said Khankhanian told him “The [expletive] deserved it. The [expletive] deserved to die.” Smith added that Khankhanian knew he had struck a female.

Under cross-examination, defense attorney Bradley Brunon asked Smith why he did not mention that statement in the preliminary hearing in Jan. 2011 or the first trial in February.

“I was never asked,” Smith said.

Brunon then asked Smith a series of questions about his memory, but the firefighter said, “I remember what he said. I can only share the truth.”

Later, Malibu/Lost Hills Sheriff’s Deputy Dustin Morales testified Khankhanian said he wanted to kill himself.

“He told me, ‘I wanted to run off the road and hit the pole. I did it on purpose,’” Morales testified.

At this trial and the first trial, which ended in a hung jury, multiple witnesses have testified to Khankhanian’s reckless driving on April 3, 2010. Khankhanian had been recently laid off from his job of five years at an animal clinic due to increasing conflicts with his co-workers after his fianc/e was fired from the same clinic, his employer testified. The morning of April 3, he picked up his last paycheck. He left a suicide note at the home he shared with his fianc/e and arranged to have what was left of his finances transferred to her.

He then got in his car, a 2008 Mitsubishi Lancer, and proceeded to drive aggressively on a 17-mile stretch that began at the top of Topanga Canyon Drive, then north on PCH before crashing near Heathercliff. Multiple motorists called 911 during that time period about Khankhanian’s driving, which several testified included drifting into oncoming traffic and onto the shoulder of the road.

Khankhanian told emergency personnel at the scene that he had had four glasses of wine and several prescription medications, but toxicology tests later showed no trace of alcohol in his system.

In opening statements Wednesday last week, Miller told jurors they must decide on two questions. First, did Khankhanian’s driving endanger human life? And second, did he know that?

The prosecution has charged Khankhanian got in his car with the intent to kill himself by crashing it, and that he was aware of the danger his driving caused to others. Defense attorney Bradley Brunon argues Khankhanian, who was diagnosed with autism and Tourette Syndrome, was incapable of perceiving the effect his reckless driving would have on others. Brunon blamed Khankhanian’s mental disorders for his post-accident behavior, saying he “had a mental breakdown” as people around him shouted and there were emergency vehicles flashing lights.

“In a stressful situation, he will rant, he will blurt,” Brunon said, noting that Khankhanian lied about drinking wine. He also said he lied about hitting Shane.

“None of this is true,” Brunon said.

Evidence from the trial showed that Khankhanian’s Mitsubishi Lancer collided with the power pole on its passenger side, rather than the front of the car. Brunon has argued this proves Khankhanian simply lost control of the vehicle.

Evidence also showed Shane was hit by the grill of Khankhanian’s car.

Michel Shane, the father of Emily Shane, took the stand on Monday to testify. Shane said he expected the prosecution would finish its case on Tuesday or Wednesday, and the defense’s case should conclude by Friday or Monday.

If convicted of the second-degree murder charge, Khankhanian faces a sentence of 15 years to life in prison.

Brunon says Khankhanian is guilty of vehicular manslaughter, which carries a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison.