Minutes after a court clerk Wednesday read a jury’s verdict convicting a Costa Mesa man of two counts of second-degree murder in an Irvine collision that killed a woman and her 2-year-old granddaughter, one of the panelists did an about-face, prompting a judge to declare a mistrial.
The woman spoke up when the jurors were individually polled on whether they agreed with the verdict announced in court, answering no. When Orange County Superior Court Judge Cheri Pham followed up with her, the juror said, “I changed my mind at this moment.”
Signs of discord first emerged Tuesday afternoon, when the jury told Pham they were deadlocked 8-4 in favor of convicting Alec Scott Abraham, 24. The judge instructed the jurors to return in the morning to continue deliberating, and they signaled Wednesday afternoon that they had reached a verdict.
Before the verdict was read, Abraham turned to the victims’ family members and mumbled, “Hampton family, I’m sorry once again.” During a break in Tuesday’s hearing, as the attorneys were in discussions in the judge’s chamber, the defendant cried in front of the jury.
Pham scheduled a tentative May 6 retrial date and ordered the defendant to return to court April 12 so attorneys can discuss how to proceed.
Abraham’s attorney, Houman Fakhimi, maintained that the filing of murder charges in the June 10, 2015, crash at Alton and Barranca parkways that killed 54-year-old Katherine Hampton of Lake Forest and her granddaughter Kaydence Hampton, was “overreach by prosecutors.”
“This was not murder,” Fakhimi said, telling the jury it was an “amazing stretch” to make the argument that because of the defendant’s “propensity to drive fast” in the past that he should be charged with murder in a fatal crash.
Senior Deputy District Attorney Whitney Bokosky said Abraham was street racing downhill when he flashed through a “stale” red light and T-boned a car, fatally injuring the two victims.
Hampton was pronounced dead at the scene and Kaydence died four days later. The girl’s 7-year-old brother suffered a broken collarbone, and his 28-year-old mother was treated for a jaw fracture.
Abraham was driving a black Ford Mustang with a red interior and red wheels on Alton, racing another car as he approached the intersection at Barranca going 76 mph about 8:50 p.m., when he swerved to get around stopped traffic at the red light and slammed his car into Katherine Hampton’s Chevrolet Cruze, Bokowsky said.
Both cars crashed into a Honda Civic that was at the intersection. The 44-year-old woman behind the wheel of that car was also injured.
“In no world is this an accident … That is why he is charged with murder,” the prosecutor said in her opening statement.
Abraham fled the scene of the crash and was arrested the following day, according to Bokosky, who said the defendant has a history of “reckless” driving that includes racing a motorcyclist on an Orange County toll road at speeds up to 120 mph after another motorist declined his challenge just a few days before the fatal crash.
“She’s going to tell you that none other than Alec Abraham challenged her to race… with his Elvis pompadour, and she said, `No thanks,”’ Bokosky said.
The prosecutor also showed jurors a video the defendant took of himself racing on a freeway at speeds up to 140 mph, punctuated with the driver letting out a “woo!”
“He likes to drive recklessly, he likes to race,” Bokosky said.
A Huntington Beach police officer who pulled the defendant over for speeding gave him a “stern warning,” and former co-workers also advised him at one point to “stop driving like an idiot,” she said.
Fakhimi told jurors the Evidence Data Recorder in the defendant’s car showed he was attempting to brake before the crash.
“He did apply the brakes. He did try to stop. He did try to swerve,” the defense attorney said, arguing that there is no evidence of Abraham racing another car aside from the claims of two witnesses.
“It would be impossible for another car to be racing my client without leaving any physical evidence” such as skid marks, Fakhimi said.
Abraham was 20 years old at the time and had received his license without the benefit of classes or traffic school, his attorney said.
>> Want to read more stories like this? Get our Free Daily Newsletters Here!Follow us: