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Judge Postpones Closing Arguments of Trial Accusing Man of Killing 20th Century Fox Executive

A Los Angeles judge Thursday postponed the conclusion of closing arguments in the trial of a San Fernando Valley man accused of killing a 20th Century Fox distribution executive who was having an affair with the defendant’s estranged wife.

Judge Stephen A. Marcus told the court that two jurors could not be present Thursday and scheduled the proceedings to continue at 9 a.m. Friday.

On Wednesday, prosecutor Bobby Grace told the eight-woman, four-man jury that John Creech attacked his estranged wife’s married lover, Gavin Smith, out of revenge after using a GPS cell phone app to track her down and sneak up on the two in Smith’s Mercedes-Benz in West Hills in May 2012.

But defense attorney Irene Nunez urged jurors to acquit the 44-year-old defendant, telling jurors that Creech had a lawful right to defend himself in a fight that he testified was initiated by Smith, a 57-year-old married father of three sons.

“This was a tragic fight between two grown men, two flawed men, two imperfect men,” Creech’s attorney said. “There was no intention to kill. This was a spontaneous fight.”

Grace told jurors Creech “went to great lengths to hide all of the things that he did to Gavin Smith,” whose remains were found in a shallow grave in the Angeles National Forest in the Antelope Valley about 2 1/2 years after he disappeared.

The prosecutor argued that the actions Creech took to hide Smith’s body and car were inconsistent with self-defense and demonstrated a “stunning consciousness of guilt.”

“He deliberately, viciously, intently delivered murderous blows to Gavin Smith repeatedly, which resulted in Gavin Smith’s death,” the prosecutor said. “This wasn’t a kids’ fight … There’s clearly an intent to kill here that’s evidenced by the severity of the injuries to Gavin Smith.”

“In this case, there’s certainly motive,” Grace said of the on-and-off again relationship between Creech’s estranged wife, Chandrika Cade, and Smith.

The prosecutor told jurors Creech and Cade had an “unconventional marriage” in which the two “both cheated on each other,” and that it was “essentially a countdown to murder” when Creech “first uttered the threat” in 2010 that he would kill Smith if he continued to see Cade as two of Smith’s sons pleaded for their father’s life after learning about the affair.

The deputy district attorney told jurors Creech was an ex-con free on bail at the time and knew there would be consequences if he beat Smith up and left him somewhere, adding that was a “key reason why he could not leave Gavin Smith alive.”

Creech’s attorney acknowledged her client is a “convicted drug seller” but said he “had to fight for his life” after the man who had “intruded” into his life and marriage approached him outside the Mercedes-Benz with a weapon following a fistfight between the two men inside the sedan.

“In this situation, killing Gavin was lawful,” Nunez said, telling jurors that there was “no intent to kill” and that the “only just verdict” would be to find her client not guilty.

The defense attorney has repeatedly said that Creech made “errors in judgment” after Smith’s death. She told jurors that her client was an ex-con who “panicked” and was scared after he realized Smith was dead.

“He made some really bad mistakes and errors after he had to defend himself,” she said, saying that her client buried Smith in a blanket and then prayed for him.

Creech told the Los Angeles Superior Court jury that he took “full accountability” for failing to call 911 after what he described as mutual combat or to seek help for Smith, who was a member of UCLA’s 1975 NCAA-winning basketball team under Coach John Wooden and had worked for 20th Century Fox for 18 years.

Creech testified that Smith threw the first punch, choked him and tried to gouge out his eye as the two men struggled inside Smith’s car.

The prosecutor countered that Creech’s testimony that he was acting in self-defense is “contrived” and that his claim that Smith came at him wielding a multi-purpose tool in the latter part of the struggle between the two men was “just completely made up by this defendant.”

Creech could face a maximum of life in prison without the possibility of parole if he is convicted of first-degree murder and if jurors find true the special circumstance allegation of murder while lying in wait. The jury can also consider the lesser offenses of second-degree murder, voluntary manslaughter and involuntary manslaughter.

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