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Chihan Eric Chyung, scheduled to be sentenced Wednesday for fatally shooting his wife in Norwich five years ago, instead received an offer of a reduced sentence due to a legal issue that could put his conviction at risk of being overturned.
Chyung, 50, of Norwalk, who faces up to 60 years in prison for murder, turned down the offer of a 35-year prison sentence. The sentencing before Judge Barbara Bailey Jongbloed, which was scheduled for Wednesday but already was expected to be postponed because the Department of Adult Probation has not finished a presentencing report, is now scheduled for July 10.
A jury in New London Superior Court in March found Chyung guilty of murder and manslaughter with a firearm. 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. The 12-member jury deliberated just over three hours before announcing the guilty verdict.
His attorneys, Brian J. Woolf and Kathleen E. Rallo, filed a motion to overturn the conviction. They assert that the verdict contains inconsistent findings concerning Chyung’s state of mind. The defense also has petitioned the state Supreme Court to hear their case. They have 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.
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 Court judges quoted the earlier King decision in their decision.
With members of the victim’s family and Chyung’s supporters present in court Wednesday, prosecutors David J. Smith and Marissa Goldberg and Chyung’s attorneys discussed the case behind the scenes. Smith, who has said he is prepared to retry the case if necessary, offered Chyung a reduced sentence of 40 years. Judge Hillary B. Strackbein, presiding judge for criminal matters in the New London Judicial District, offered a sentence of 35 years. Chyung, told of the reduced offers in the courthouse lockup, rejected both of them and confirmed his decision when he was brought before Strackbein a short time later. He has been incarcerated since the verdict
In taking his case to trial, Chyung had turned down the state’s earlier offer of 45 years in prison. Jongbloed, who presided over the trial and will hand down the sentence, was not included in any of the plea discussions. She will hear oral arguments on the motion to overturn the conviction on June 10.