LAS VEGAS (AP) — A judge said Friday the one-punch killing of a California man outside a downtown Las Vegas bar does not appear to be a death penalty case, but questioned whether the man held on a murder charge will be able to argue that he acted in self-defense.
Las Vegas Justice of the Peace Joseph Sciscento made the comment after a prosecutor said surveillance video of the April 30 punch that killed a California father of five appeared to show that the attack was unprovoked.
The judge set bail at $350,000 for the defendant, James Michael Beach.
“His hands are in his pockets,” prosecutor Marc DiGiacomo said of the video showing victim Luis Campos, “when Mr. Beach walks up to him, says something, and when the guy leans in he just throws a punch.”
Campos, 45, of La Puente, California, was in Las Vegas for a bachelor party. He never regained consciousness after falling to the sidewalk. He died four days later at a hospital.
The video has not been made public, but could be shown in court on May 24 when Sciscento is scheduled to decide if there is enough evidence for Beach to stand trial in state court.
DiGiacomo said Beach was convicted in 2009 and served four-plus years in state prison for shooting two people in Las Vegas in 2008. Beach also uses the name James Michael Garcia.
The judge rejected efforts by Beach’s attorney, Greg Knapp, to characterize the punch as a tragic mistake by a 27-year-old married father of two with a landscaping job and no intent to kill Campos.
“This has been portrayed as a ‘sucker punch’ and a random occurrence. I’ve reviewed the video. This isn’t so random,” Knapp said.
An allegation that words were exchanged “and therefore it’s justified to hit somebody is just appalling to this court,” the judge responded. “This doesn’t come to a sense of self-defense.”
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