Convicted Killer Seeks New Trial Because Cop Lied, Hid Exculpatory Evidence
Stephenson Choi Kim, a convicted killer who embarrassed the Orange County Sheriff's Department while in custody by filming a porno and repeatedly having sex with a visitor without detection, is hoping a federal judge will overturn his case.
Jurors in 2011 convicted Kim, a Los Angeles County gangster nicknamed Dragon, for the lethal, 2004 shooting at a Cypress restaurant, the Fifth Wave Café, and prosecutors unsuccessfully sought a jury approved death penalty before Superior Court Judge John D. Conley eventually imposed a life plus 255-year punishment.
Kim argues Conley and then-Cypress Police Department detective Susan White trampled his constitutional right to a fair trial.
The judge, a former homicide prosecutor, blocked Leonard B. Levine, Kim's defense lawyer, from showing jurors recorded police interviews with Ronald Woodhead, a victim who, before dying, on two different occasions coherently identified another man, Wilson Sun, as the killer.
A black baseball cap worn by the shooter was accidentally left at the crime scene and contained DNA matches not to Kim but rather to Sun and Woodhead, who'd chased the assailant, made physical contact and got shot in the abdomen.
(Prosecutor Cameron Talley told the jury that Kim borrowed Sun's cap immediately before the shooting. Cops originally arrested Sun, but later decided he wasn't the killer.)
Conley also refused to declare a mistrial after Cypress PD failed for seven years to turn over critical recordings of eyewitness statements until near the end of the trial and Kim's defense, ignorant of the existence of that evidence, had already locked into a strategy.
Those recording impeached the veracity of White, who'd testified under oath that witnesses quickly, positively and without prompting identified Kim as the killer.
One of those witnesses, a waiter, later declared White made untruthful representations about his statement.
Another witness White claimed positively pointed to Kim in a photographic six pack of suspects actually said on the recordings, "I'm not sure, but it kinda might look like him."
White bolstered her original testimony by using a report she'd written of the alleged identifications before supposedly losing the recordings.
Her report used quotes about witness statements that were never uttered.
During the trial, Levine grilled the officer, especially for claiming a witness had literally said, "I believe it was him," meaning Kim.
Levine asked her, "It was simply not true, was it?"
The cop, who'd been on a team seeking Kim's state-sponsored execution, replied, "Apparently, I made a mistake."
Government officials have an ethical duty to be honest and to surrender key evidence to the defense at least 30 days before a trial.
In a separate, ongoing death penalty case, People v. Daniel Wozniak, a terse Conley recently scoffed at the notion police officers and deputies cheat.
In February 2014, California Court of Appeal justices based in Santa Ana declared they were satisfied with the strength of the prosecution's case against Kim and refused to overturn the conviction.
The pending federal appeal is in the hands of U.S. District Court Judge James V. Selna, a 2003 lifetime Republican appointee by President George W. Bush.
Kamala Harris' Attorney General's Office has not yet filed a defense of the conviction.
Now 35 years old, the appellant lives in the California State Prison at Sacramento.
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