One juror’s change of heart prompts mistrial for driver accused of killing grandmother, 2-year-old girl in Irvine crash
SANTA ANA – A last-second change of heart by a juror after a guilty verdict had already been read forced an Orange County Superior Court judge to declare a mistrial in the case of a Costa Mesa man charged with murder for a 2015 Irvine crash that left a woman and her granddaughter dead.
Alec Scott Abraham, 24, stared back toward his family as jurors who had struggled for days to reach consensus returned to the court to find him guilty of two counts of murder in connection to the deaths of 54-year-old Katherine Hampton and 2-year-old Kaydence Hampton.
After the unanimous verdict was read, Judge Cheri Pham immediately began the routine task of individually polling the 12 jurors, asking each to confirm his or her vote.
One of them quietly asked, “May I change it?”
Abraham’s mother exclaimed, “Thank you God!” while his attorney immediately told the judge, “I demand a mistrial right now.”
Asked to confirm what she meant, the juror told the judge that “I change my mind this moment.”
Judge Pham declared a mistrial and released the jury, telling the attorneys, “I think at this point I don’t have a choice.”
Outside the courtroom, Abraham’s attorney, Houman Fakhimi, accused prosecutors of overcharging his client, who he noted had no record of driving under the influence.
“There is a reason we have vehicular manslaughter,” Fakhimi said. “This was an overcharge by the government. This is not what murder charges are supposed to be for.”
The case stemmed from a June 10, 2015 crash at Alton and Barranca parkways that killed Katherine and Kaydence Hampton and left two other family members injured.
During the trial, Senior Deputy District Attorney Whitney Bokosky accused Abraham of racing another vehicle in his black Ford Mustang at more than 75 mph when he swerved to get around stopped traffic at a red light and T-boned the vehicle occupied by the Hamptons.
Bokosky told jurors that Abraham had a history of reckless driving, including racing a motorcyclist on a toll road at speeds of up to 120 mph and taking videos of himself driving on a freeway at speeds of up to 140 mph.
“No one should have to tell you that if you speed through an intersection on a red you can kill someone,” Bokosky had told jurors during her closing arguments.
Abraham, testifying against the advice of his attorneys, said he was unfamiliar with the area and confused by nearby construction. He described pulling into a left-turn lane at the intersection, waiting for a green light, then being confused by “lines in the roadway” that he said made him think he needed to turn right out of the left-turn lanes.
“I’m sorry, I’m sorry I turned out that way,” Abraham said. “I was really confused at the time.”
Explaining why he left the scene before police arrived, Abraham said he was traumatized and contended another person had come up to him and threatened his life for causing the accident. He said he ultimately decided to turn himself into police.
Asked by the prosecutor to explain why multiple other people had testified that he and another vehicle were racing, Abraham accused them of lying.
At numerous times during the trial, Abraham attempted to speak out loud when the judge, occasionally with the attorneys as well, was in chambers.
“Hey Hampton family, I’m sorry once again,” he said across the courtroom to the victims’ family members, as they awaited the verdict.
“Can we not do this?” Bokosky responded, prompting the bailiffs to warn Abraham.
Bokosky left the courtroom without commenting on the verdict.
A new trial, with a different jury, could be held as early as May. It wasn’t clear if prosecutors will move forward with the same charges.