Defense attorneys: Chyung murder case will be overturned

Attorneys for Chihan Eric Chyung, who was found guilty by a New London jury last month of fatally shooting his newlywed wife, are seeking to overturn the conviction based on their claim that the jury verdict contains inconsistent findings concerning Chyung's state of mind.

Chyung, 50, is scheduled to be sentenced next month for the June 2, 2009, killing of Paige Anne Bennett, his wife of just three weeks, at their Taftville home. After listening to two weeks of testimony in Superior Court, a 12-member jury deliberated just over three hours before announcing on March 31 that it had found Chyung guilty of murder and manslaughter with a firearm.

Attorney Kathleen E. Rallo of the Woolf Law Firm said the two guilty verdicts are "legally inconsistent and impossible" because the murder charge requires that the jury find Chyung acted intentionally while the manslaughter charges requires a finding that he acted with reckless disregard for human life.

"You can't be found intentional and reckless at the same time," Rallo said in a phone interview Tuesday. "It's an either/or that the jury should have found. It looks like he's going to have get a new trial, based on my opinion."

Rallo this week filed a motion for judgment of acquittal, which she said would likely be taken up by Judge Barbara Bailey Jongbloed before Chyung's sentencing on May 28.

Rallo cited two cases, both called State v. King, in which higher courts overturned guilty verdicts based on so-called inconsistent findings. In the first case, decided in 1990, the state Supreme Court ordered a new trial for Roy King, who was convicted of attempted murder, which required a showing of intent, and of assault, which required a showing of recklessness, according to Rallo. King, who had set fire to a fellow inmate's cell at a state prison, also was convicted of arson.

"Reckless conduct is not intentional conduct because one who acts recklessly does not have a conscious objective to cause a particular result," the court wrote.

In the second case, published the day after the Chyung verdict and officially released April 8, the state Appellate Court ordered a new trial for Robert King, who was found guilty of two counts of first-degree assault charges by a Waterbury jury in 2012.

One of the assault charges required a finding that King acted recklessly when he stabbed a woman with a steak knife.

The other required the jury to find that he had acted intentionally. The Appellate judges quoted the earlier King decision in their decision.

Senior Assistant State's Attorney David J. Smith, who prosecuted Chyung, said he is evaluating the recently released King decision and the cases that led up to it. He said he expects the Chyung sentencing to go forward as scheduled.

Chyung had admitted on the night of the shooting and throughout his trial that he shot Bennett after a protracted argument. He said his Glock 9 mm pistol had discharged accidentally when he attempted to pack it into a suitcase.

Norwich Police initially charged Chyung with manslaughter, which carries the element of recklessness, but the prosecutor upgraded the charge to murder after reviewing the case and determining Chyung acted intentionally. At the request of the defense, the judge allowed the jury to consider the lesser charges of manslaughter and negligent homicide.

k.florin@theday.com

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