Thursday, September 17, 2009
C.A. Upholds Conviction in Koreatown Murder of Cab Driver
By a MetNews Staff Writer
The Court of Appeal for this district has affirmed the first-degree murder conviction of an accused gang leader for the 1992 killing of a cab driver in Koreatown.
Div. Two Tuesday rejected Sunny Hsiao Shin Ting’s claim that Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Robert Perry abused his discretion by denying him a continuance to obtain a new attorney.
The victim, In Jik Lee, worked for an unlicensed taxi service and was shot and killed while picking up a fare at a restaurant in August 1992. Ting was not identified as the shooter until four years later, when two incarcerated members of the Wah Ching gang told police that Ting was involved.
Ting was tried twice, the first time in 2005. He was convicted at the first trial, but his motion for new trial was granted on the ground of juror misconduct.
His retained counsel, Jack Earley, later withdrew and was replaced by the public defender. Ting, however, retained a new attorney, Nancy Mazza, who substituted in on Dec. 20, 2006.
The second trial was scheduled to begin on July 3, 2007, and Mazza’s motion for a 30-day continuance from that date was denied in June. On July 1, Ting faxed to the court a motion “in propria persona” for a continuance to find new counsel.
Perry held a hearing July 5, denied the motion and began the trial that date.
During the trial, three other former Wah Ching members testified that Ting was the gang’s leader at the time of the shooting, and that he told them that he and another member carjacked Lee, that the driver fought back and that the other member shot Lee in the back of the head. The intent of the carjacking, the witnesses testified, was to get a vehicle to use in robberies.
Prosecutors also presented evidence that Ting had been treated for a bullet wound less than two hours after Lee was shot. He claimed at the time that he had been robbed and shot while sitting in the passenger seat of his girlfriend’s car, although Monterey Park police found no blood in that vehicle.
Ting testified that he had nothing to do with carjacking Lee and did not have any plan to get a car to use in robberies. He explained that he, the other gang member and Lee met in Lee’s cab to discuss a plan for Ting to sell Lee guns, that an argument broke out between the other two men, that Lee pulled a gun, and that when Ting grabbed for the gun, it went off accidentally, the bullet striking Ting in the leg.
The other man then shot Lee, Ting said, before taking Ting home. Lee’s wife testified on rebuttal that her husband had never owned a gun and that she did not recognize a photo of the other man and knew of no business dealings between him and her husband.
Jurors found Ting guilty of first-degree murder, with a robbery special circumstance, and of robbery. Perry sentenced him to life imprisonment without possibility of parole, plus four years for personal use of a firearm. Sentence on the robbery count was stayed under Penal Code Sec. 654’s prohibition of multiple punishments for the same crime.
On appeal, Ting argued that Perry should have allowed the defendant to personally argue in support of his “in propria persona” motion for continuance.
Justice Kathryn Doi Todd, however, in an unpublished opinion for the Court of Appeal, said that Ting had no right to argue before the court because he was represented by counsel. Nor did he have any right to a Marsden hearing, she said, because his counsel was not court-appointed.
In any event, Doi Todd noted, the trial judge “carefully considered the motion” before denying it. That denial, she added, was not an abuse of discretion, given Mazza’s statements that she was taken by surprise by the motion, that Ting’s assertion—that she had not spent enough time talking to him and did not have documents she needed for trial—was unfounded and that she was prepared to go to trial that day.
Attorneys on appeal were Matthew Alger, by appointment, for the defendant and Deputy Attorneys General Linda C. Johnson and Michael A. Katz for the prosecution.
The case is People v. Ting, B209911.
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