VISTA, Calif. – A lawyer for an actor accused of trying to kill his ex-girlfriend told a jury Wednesday the defendant had a tumultuous relationship with the woman, who was described as a violent drama queen, but never intended to kill her.
Defense attorney Matthew Roberts said in his closing argument there was no doubt defendant Shelley Malil went too far when he picked up a kitchen knife during a quarrel with Kendra Beebe after finding her on her patio with another man.
Roberts said the three people tussled over the knife, but he described the incident as normal, saying Malil and Beebe had "ridiculous drama on a daily basis."
There was no physical evidence to prove Malil planned to murder the mother of two, Roberts said.
Malil — who played Haziz, a co-worker of Steve Carell's title character in "The 40-Year-Old Virgin — could face 21 years to life in prison if convicted of premeditated attempted murder in the 2008 incident at the home of Beebe, who was stabbed more than 20 times.
Malil also has been charged with assault with a deadly weapon and residential burglary.
Beebe's companion David Maldonado eventually grabbed the knife and threw it over a fence before running to his car to get his cell phone and call 911, the prosecutor said.
The defense said Malil believed Maldonado went to get a gun, so Malil grabbed another knife from the kitchen and walked to a side yard, where Beebe picked up a garden hoe and hit him in the head.
Roberts told jurors Malil began flailing with the knife in the dark to protect himself, and that caused Beebe's most serious injuries.
"Without the intent to kill, he's not guilty," Roberts told jurors.
Roberts said the 45-year-old actor was normally a peaceful, honest man with no history of violence.
After the incident, Roberts said Malil sent Beebe a text message apologizing. He also called her mother to apologize, the lawyer said.
"Again there's nothing stealth, nothing sneaky about what he's doing," Roberts said. "There was no plan, no premeditation."
According to testimony, Malil became angry with Beebe the day before the incident and left her and her cousin stranded at a California beach.
The next day, Malil found Beebe drinking wine on the patio with Maldonado, a flamenco guitar player she had been dating, according to the defense.
Roberts described Beebe as a woman known for orchestrating drama and trying to make men jealous. He also questioned her credibility.
Deputy District Attorney Keith Watanabe said there was extensive evidence proving Malil was guilty of attempted murder.
"It is clear what the defense's strategy has been all along — and that is to dirty up the victim and hope that you hate her," Watanabe told jurors.
Malil brought the first knife to the house that day and did not grab one in the heat of an argument, the prosecutor said.
He also showed jurors photos of Beebe's stab wounds to the face, neck, back and breast, and said she also suffered a stab wound between her legs.
"To get these wounds in these places he had to intentionally have been trying to stab her," Watanabe said, contending the injuries did not come from someone blindly flailing in the dark.
Closing arguments concluded Wednesday and the jury began deliberations. The panel recessed late Wednesday without reaching a verdict.