Murder trial underway in case of 2012 shooting outside Anchorage nightclub
The jury has been seated and opening statements have been heard in the trial of the October 2012 shooting death of 27-year-old Said Beshirov. Korakanh Phornsavanh is the man accused of gunning down Beshirov outside of the now-closed Platinum Jaxx nightclub.
On Wednesday, jurors watched cell phone video that was shot by a witness the night of the murder. In the video, crowds are gathered and two fights are happening simultaneously in different locations. Witnesses said a group of men began pushing two women and, as people tried to intervene, they became angry.
Prosecutors say Phornsavanh — who can be seen wearing a red hoodie and face paint — was involved in the altercations from the beginning. Phornsavanh is seen in the video seconds before the shots are fired, but the witness pans away and the shooting is not caught on camera.
“The man who killed Said Beshirov is Korakanh Phornsavanh,” said Assistant District Attorney Jenna Gruenstein.
Gruenstein told jurors Beshirov approached Phornsavanh with his hands up and both palms facing out. She said it was a sign of peace. Prosecutors say Beshirov was just trying to stop the fight and protect a friend. Gruenstein said video shows Phornsavanh taking a swing at Beshirov, but Beshirov blocked him and punched him in the face, knocking him off balance.
Defense attorney Daniel Lowery said his client did not fire the gun and says the fatal shots were fired by a man named Anthony Xayavongsy. Lowery says during the course of the trial, several witnesses will testify that the shooter was wearing a long-sleeved white shirt and a black vest or jacket. In the video, Xayavongsy is dressed as a cowboy, and has on a button-down shirt and black vest.
“The evidence is going to be overwhelming on this, ladies and gentleman,” said Lowery. “It’s not going to be a close call. I anticipate as this trial goes on, you’re going to be shaking your heads saying, ‘What is going on here? — This is ridiculous.”
Prosecutors say they will be calling in an expert witness to testify that in situations like these, witness statements are not always correct.
“There was a lot going on. A lot of people fighting. A lot of people in costumes. A lot was happening,” said Gruenstein. “People were getting knocked down. People were getting punched. It was chaotic.”
The defense says the prosecution’s case lacks evidence, adding that there is no murder weapon and no DNA linking Phornsavanh to the killing. Prosecutors say Phornsavanh and his friends were looking for a fight that night.
“They were looking for trouble. They were looking for a fight,” said Gruenstein. “And it didn’t much matter to them whether it was a fair fight.”
Both the defense and prosecution agree, however, Beshirov was killed in cold blood.
“There was no excuse for it. There was no justification for it,” said Lowery. “He was murdered.”
But Lowery says they’ve got the wrong guy. The trial is expected to last three to four weeks, and then it will be up to the jury to decide if Phornsavanh is innocent or guilty.
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