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A 12-member jury charged with deciding whether Chihan Eric Chyung killed his wife intentionally or by accident at their Norwich home five years ago began deliberating Monday in New London Superior Court.
The 50-year-old Norwalk resident is charged with murder and first-degree manslaughter with a firearm. Judge Barbara Bailey Jongbloed instructed the jury that they could also consider the lesser charges of second-degree manslaughter with a firearm and criminally negligent homicide.
Chyung shot and killed Paige Anne Bennett at their Taftville home on June 2, 2009, following a lengthy argument. They had been married for just three weeks. Chyung claims his Glock 9 mm discharged accidentally, shooting Bennett in the head, when he attempted to pack it into a suitcase. At the trial, he testified that he didn’t realize there was a bullet in the chamber when he retrieved the gun from a bedroom drawer.
During his closing argument Monday, prosecutor David J. Smith told the jury that intent can be “instantaneous.”
“Intent can be formed like that,” Smith said, snapping his fingers.
He used a blue facsimile gun to demonstrate how he believes Chyung intentionally racked the 9 mm’s slide to chamber a round, then held it to Bennett’s head.
“The man was standing there with a gun in his hand, a chambered, properly working gun,” Smith argued. “If you point a gun at someone’s head and pull the trigger, I believe you intend to kill someone.”
He argued that Chyung left the scene and “got his story straight” before returning about an hour later and calling 911.
Defense attorney Brian J. Woolf also hoisted the fake gun during his summation, saying Chyung had mishandled it and it had discharged due to an involuntary pulling on the trigger as he attempted to unzip the suitcase. The gun has no external safety and no chamber indicator to alert the user that it is ready to shoot, according to testimony.
Woolf repeatedly used the words “negligent and careless” to describe Chyung’s actions — words that apply to considering the lesser charge of negligent homicide, which is a misdemeanor.
Woolf concluded his argument by playing the recording of the 911 call Chyung placed that night. On the recording, a frantic and despondent sounding Chyung told the dispatcher he had shot his wife by accident.
“We were having an argument,” he said. “I was packing my stuff. We just got married. I loved her. I don’t know what happened.”
During their deliberations, the 12-member jury will have the Glock 9 mm in the jury room, but not the magazine clip and bullets that had been placed into evidence. The judge indicated that if the jury wants to inspect the magazine and ammunition, they will be asked to hand out the gun and it will be provided.
The jury deliberated for about 1 1/2 hours Monday before the judge dismissed them for the day. They will resume deliberations this morning.