• BREAKING NEWS ABC shows live and on-demand -- Download the WATCH ABC app!

Fatal Malibu PCH car crash trial nearing end

January 25, 2012 12:00:00 AM PST
The trial is winding down for a driver accused of killing a young girl in Malibu during a failed suicide attempt. It's been a gut-wrenching few days in court for the family of the 13-year-old girl. Closing arguments are expected to begin Thursday.

As the trial of Sina Khankhanian nears closing arguments, the 28-year-old charged with second-degree murder in the death of 13-year-old Malibu student Emily Shane, appeared calm in the courtroom, even turning around to give family members a reassuring smile.

This, despite a contentious verbal battle between the defense and the prosecution and the presence of more than 24 supporters of Shane's family in the courtroom.

Wearing purple clothing and bracelets in honor of Emily Shane because it was her favorite color, Malibu residents have shown up in court every day and plan to do so until the verdict is read.

"Emily's death just really hit the entire community very hard and it galvanized a lot of people to see what else we can do, both as residents and as a city," said Malibu Mayor Laura Rosenthal.

They started a grassroots effort to make Pacific Coast Highway safer for all residents, and are backing the Shane family's "Pass It Forward" campaign to do good deeds in Emily's name.

But Wednesday their focus was on the trial. The prosecution is trying to persuade jurors Khankhanian was trying to commit suicide in April 2010 and intentionally swerved his car toward a pole on PCH, hitting Shane instead, killing the eighth-grader almost instantly.

The defense claims their client simply lost control of his car and because he had been diagnosed with autism, Khankhanian didn't understand his actions could kill someone.

"I'm not saying he might not have issues, but he was a very functioning member of society," said Ellen Shane, Emily's mother. "He had a driver's license for over 11 years. That's not somebody who can't function in society and doesn't know what he's doing when he gets behind the wheel of a car.

"I have to hope that the spirit of Emily will allow them to see the truth through the fog," said Michael Shane, Emily's father.