Published March 28. 2014 2:00PM Updated March 29. 2014 12:03AM
Attorneys for Chihan Eric Chyung rested their case Friday after calling a firearms expert who opined that Chyung was carrying his Glock 9 mm pistol improperly when it accidentally discharged, perhaps due to an involuntary movement, and struck his wife in the head.
"It all started when he grabbed the gun out of the cabinet and put his hand where it didn't belong," said Gregory A. Danis.
The owner of four firearms businesses in the Lowell, Mass., area, Danis said he has taught more than 20,000 people to shoot safely over the past 25 years and has testified in court about 50 times.
Chyung, 50, of Norwalk is on trial for murder and first-degree manslaughter in New London Superior Court. He admits he fatally shot Paige Anne Bennett in the kitchen of their Taftville home on June 2, 2009, but contends his pistol discharged accidentally as he attempted to put it into a suitcase and leave the home following a lengthy argument.
Testifying under direct examination by defense attorney Kathleen E. Rallo, Danis said that the fundamental rules of firearm safety did not occur in Chyung's case. The Glock was loaded, with a cartridge in the chamber and the slide closed when Chyung took it from a bedroom dresser drawer, he testified. The magazine was loaded with bullets and inserted into the gun. Chyung failed to open the slide to check whether the firearm was loaded, Danis testified.
The Glock does not have a manual safety button that would prevent it from firing but has a trigger safety tab that requires complete depression of the trigger to fire the gun. The model Chyung had, made in 1992, did not have a chamber indicator that would enable the user to tell if the gun was loaded, according to Danis.
He tested the gun and concluded it was working properly and that it would take 6 or 7 pounds of pressure to pull the trigger. State firearms expert James Stephenson, who testified earlier at the trial, reached similar conclusions, citing a 7-pound trigger pull.
During cross-examination, prosecutor David J. Smith questioned Danis at length about an initial report Danis issued, after interviewing Chyung by phone and talking with Chyung and his attorneys during a conference call. In that report, Danis wrote that Chyung had placed the gun in his back right pants pocket after retrieving it from the drawer. In a subsequent report to the defense and on the witness stand, Danis testified that Chyung had been carrying the gun by the slide on the top of the gun when it discharged. The proper way to carry a gun is by the grip, or handle, he testified.
Danis said he changed his report after meeting with Chyung in person eight weeks ago. The prosecutor asked why Danis initially said Chyung had placed the gun in his pocket.
"Occasionally, he said he put it in his back pocket," Danis said.
Danis testified that he accepted a $5,000 retainer from defense attorney Brian J. Woolf's law firm to evaluate the case and testify at trial and that he sent the firm an agreement saying he would bill them $275 an hour to review the case and $3,000 a day to testify.
Closing arguments are scheduled for Monday. The jury will begin deliberating after receiving instruction from Judge Barbara Bailey Jongbloed.