Hollister resident Sang Ji, 50, and South Korean national Jung Choi, 46, appeared in San Benito County Superior Court on Sept. 11. The pair, accused of murdering Ji’s wife Yoon Ji in Dec. 2017, will return to court on Oct. 4 for a trial-setting hearing.
Judge Steven Sanders denied motions from defense attorneys Arthur Cantu (Ji) and
Harry Damkar (Choi). Cantu requested that Ji’s comments and interactions with San Benito County Sheriff’s deputies be dismissed, while Damkar sought to sever Choi’s trial from Ji’s.
Damkar was unsuccessful in arguing that statements made concerning Ji would be detrimental to Choi’s case. After Sanders denied the motion, Damkar said he would request two juries.
Cantu tried to convince Sanders that sheriff’s deputies, including lead investigator Capt. Eric Taylor, did not properly read Ji his Miranda rights because there was not a Korean translator present when he was arrested. As Cantu was arguing the need for a Korean translator, Ji was whispering to private investigator Richard Solano, who later told Benitolink he does not speak Korean. Cantu also argued that Taylor coerced Ji when he told Ji that he was risking not seeing his daughters ever again if he did not talk.
Taylor said he was only talking to Ji as “one human being to another.”
James C. Hann, a San Jose attorney who represented Ji’s two daughters in a 2018 civil trial, testified that he came to see Ji prior to that trial to learn where Ji kept a flash drive containing financial information. He said that during the conversation Ji asked him to tell Taylor he wanted to speak with him. Under further questioning from Assistant DA Joel Buckingham, Hann tried to invoke privilege, but finally admitted that he had also represented Yoon Ji. He claimed privilege again when Buckingham asked in what capacity.
Cantu attempted to use Hann’s relay of information to demonstrate that Haan was acting as an agent of the Sheriff’s Office.
“Clearly, Captain Taylor’s sole interest was to gather evidence,” Cantu said.
Taylor said Hann’s email only indicated that Ji wanted to tell him something.
Sanders did not agree with Cantu’s arguments and said it was clear that Ji did understand the Miranda statement, because when he was asked if he wanted to give up his rights, he told Sgt. Bryan Penney, “Not at this time,” in English.
“There’s no facts that Mr. Ji does not understand English,” Sanders said before denying the motion.
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