I was stunned when they declared a mistrial. I sat in the courtroom completely unable to fathom how five jurors could not find this man guilty of murdering my daughter. He drove on a suicide rampage for 17 miles. More than six people observed his reckless driving at different points along his route and called 911. Eyewitnesses saw him turn to hit my daughter, who was walking along the shoulder of the road (there are no sidewalks along PCH in Malibu).
Emily had left a friend's house and was on her way to meet her dad. After throwing my daughter 30 feet in the air, the driver went up a small embankment, hit a pole and his car flipped over. He came out unscathed; my daughter died shortly after being thrown. She never spoke or regained consciousness after being hit. We had no chance to even say 'goodbye' to her. Sina Khankhanian's response to her death to the first responders on the scene was, 'I don't give a f-ck. The bitch deserved to die.'
I came to the trial hoping -- praying -- for justice.
I have learned quite a bit about our legal system and unfortunately have seen its failings firsthand. I was naive to expect that the trial would bring swift and fair justice. The charge against the driver was second-degree murder, which requires two things: "conscious disregard" and a victim. It seemed crystal clear to me that someone who drove for 17 miles at speeds of 60 and 70 miles per hour, crossing into oncoming traffic, splitting lanes, swerving into the shoulder (where pedestrians and cyclists use the road), and coming up so quickly on other motorists that they were forced to move out of the way shows conscious disregard. And my daughter was the victim. The verdict should have been a slam dunk.
But the man who killed my daughter was diagnosed in his early 20s with a mild form of autism. The defense attorney used this to create "reasonable doubt." How mild was his autism? He was mainstreamed in high school, had a 3.0 GPA, and had taken some college-level classes. He had a driver's license for 11 years, held a job for five years, and was in a relationship with a woman he wanted to marry. He led a very normal life. His former fiancee testified that she hadn't even known about his autism until he told her, even though the two had worked together for years; she had no idea.
The defense attorney portrayed his client as a mental incompetent who was unaware that his driving that day could harm to someone. He presented a medical expert who backed this up. Common sense got lost in the courtroom.
On the day he killed my daughter, he was upset. He had lost his job, his fiancee wanted to call it quits. The morning of the murder, he had transferred funds out of his bank account, left a check for his fiancee and a suicide note. He put his cell phone and wallet by her bed stand. He wanted to talk to her, but she was unresponsive, which made him upset and angry. He took his car key and left.
Can you imagine how it felt for me to see him in court? He, who wanted to kill himself, is well-groomed, healthy and very much alive. He sat there beside his attorney, all dressed up in a suit, and smiled at his family. My daughter, who was just blossoming into a beautiful young woman and had everything to live for, is dead.
How could a jury deadlock and not see through the defense tactics? How is justice served here? So-called experts who are paid for their testimony looking for an excuse to let a murderer of a child go free... it makes me ill. The nightmare for us continues. After reliving our daughter's death over and over again with each witness... hearing details from the emergency responders that no parent should know and that are now embedded in our psyches, we will have to relive the entire process.
It will be worth it though, if justice is served the next time around.