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Torrance Man's Conviction For Murdering Newlywed Wife In 2005 Upheld

LOS ANGELES (CBS) —  A three-justice panel from California's 2nd District Court of Appeal rejected Brandon Jason Manai's claim that there was insufficient evidence to support his conviction for the murder of Julie Rosas, his wife of only two weeks, in 2005.

"We believe there was sufficient substantial evidence to sustain a verdict of first-degree murder in this case," Associate Justice Victoria M. Chavez wrote on behalf of the panel, disagreeing with the defense's contention that it was a close case.

The justices noted that Manai subsequently told a friend that he had thrown his wife over the cliff and that the evidence showed none of her relatives or friends had seen her alive after she drove off with Rosas on July 2, 2005.

The 24-year-old Norwalk woman's body was found the following afternoon lying on some rocks near the beach at the bottom of a cliff in Rancho Palos Verdes.

The two had gotten married in Las Vegas two weeks earlier, but there was evidence that "she wanted to obtain an annulment of their marriage," the justices noted in their 31-page ruling.

Manai, a Torrance native, told authorities his wife had accidentally fallen -- a contention he maintained just before being sentenced in February 2010.

"I would never hurt your sister," he told Rosas' brother and sister then. "... I didn't kill your sister. I didn't throw her off a cliff. It was an accident."

But the appellate court justices found that the jury could reasonably question Manai's testimony that Rosas fell after the two decided to find a trail that led down to the beach. They noted she was found wearing a mini-skirt, halter top and 3 1/2-inch heels.

"In addition, when Rosas' body was found, her French manicure was perfectly intact. The jury was entitled to infer that anyone who slipped while walking along the edge of a cliff would grab at anything she could to keep from going over the cliff and then to break her fall," Chavez wrote, with Acting Presiding Justice Kathryn Doi Todd and Associate Justice Judith M. Ashmann-Gerst concurring.

The justices also rejected Manai's contention that jurors should not have heard about his act of domestic violence against a prior girlfriend in 1999. They wrote that "it was not reasonably probable that the jury would have acquitted defendant absent the evidence of the prior act."

Manai maintained that he did not call 911 to report what had happened to his wife because he was afraid to call police since he was on parole at the time in connection with the 1999 case.

(©2011 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Wire services contributed to this report.)

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