After hearings were delayed, Hollister resident Sang Ji requested a speedy trial even though his attorney Gregory LaForge and District Attorney Candice Hooper were out sick for the June 28 pre-trial conference hearing. Jung Choi, who is implicated in the case, motioned for dismissal the same day.
Ji is accused of murdering his wife, Yoon “Clara” Ji in 2017.
Ji reiterated his intentions of not waiting any longer after Judge Steven Sanders asked him if he preferred to wait until he talked to LaForge and come back on July 3 for another pre-trial conference.
Sanders set the trial for July 22 and the confirmation hearing for July 12. The confirmation hearing is a standard procedure to confirm that all witnesses, translators, lawyers and the prosecution are still available on the date the trial is set.
Through the interpreter, Ji explained that for the last 19 months he has been waiting and he wanted to “stop waiting [sic] time and go for the speedy jury trial in the next 60 days.”
Then, Ji explained he understood what could happen to him.
“From the district attorney’s side has sufficient evidence to prove that I am guilty,” said the interpreter for Ji in broken English. “On the other hand, my attorney believes in my innocence, and both sides are fully prepared [to] have their arguments in court, so I don’t see any reason to put it off any longer and have a speedy trial as soon as possible.”
As Sanders and the rest of the court waited, Ji spoke again to the interpreter, who then relayed Ji‘s message.
“If the result of the jury trial is such that I’m judged guilty, then I am going to go to prison and pay for what I did,” he said. “On the other hand, if I’m proved not guilty I’d like to get back the freedom and my possessions that I lost, and my honor and reputation that I lost.”
Ji’s home and laundry business have both been sold, and in a civil trial his daughters were awarded $20 million each.
Assistant District Attorney Ellen Campos asked Sanders to consider waiting until July 3 to set the trial date.
“I’m going to set it now,” Sanders said, interrupting Campos before she added to her request.
After setting the trial date, Sanders asked the attorneys how long they estimated the trial to last. Campos answered 10 days while Harry Damkar, the acting defense attorney, said he could not answer for Laforge.
Damkar, however, told Sanders there may be motions to dismiss his client, Jung Choi, who is also accused of Yoon’s murder. Captain Eric Taylor of the San Benito County Sheriff’s Department told Benitolink Sang Ji confessed that he stood by on the night of the murder and watched Choi beat his wife with a baseball bat.
Shortly after Ji left the courtroom and Choi entered smiling and bowing to the interpreter, Damkar addressed Sanders.
“I’m filing a motion to dismiss,” Damkar said.
Given Campos’ request for a continuance because of Hooper’s absence, Sanders set a confirmation hearing for July 12 at 1:30 p.m. for the motion to dismiss. Sanders also set Choi’s trial for July 22 in case the motion to dismiss is unsuccessful, adding that a large jury pool would be required.
Even though Ji’s and Choi’s trial dates have been set for July 22, it is uncertain if they will be tried together. They had been appearing at hearings together for months until Ji sought to have himself determined to be incompetent. At that time, they began appearing separately. Ji was eventually determined to be competent to go to trial. If the motion to dismiss the case against Choi is unsuccessful, the July 12 hearing is expected to determine whether the defendants will be tried together or separately.
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