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Prosecutor: Girl’s killer deserves to die


Published: March 22, 2011 Updated: Aug. 21, 2013 1:17 p.m.

SANTA ANA – An Asian street gang member who shot a young woman in the back in an unprovoked gang attack inside a Cypress cafe in 2004 deserves the death penalty, an Orange County prosecutor told a jury Tuesday.

The aggravating circumstances in the murder of Venus Hyun and the background of convicted killer Stephenson Choi Kim are “so severe and so extreme” that they warrant the most severe punishment, Deputy District Attorney Cameron Talley argued during his summation in the penalty phase of Kim’s trial.

Talley said the March 13, 2004, shooting death of Venus Hyun, 21, as she cringed at a table inside the Fifth Wave Café was cold-blooded and cowardly, and showed no regard for the devastation on her friends and family.

Kim also has a long history of gang violence, Talley said, including a 1998 case where he and his gang allies beat and kicked a man at the Puente Hills Mall because he was dating Kim’s ex-girlfriend, Talley said.

But defense attorney Gary Pohlson argued that Kim of San Gabriel should be given a life term in prison without the possibility of parole.

Kim, he said, was a good son, a good brother and a good friend who twice offered his lung to an uncle who was suffering from pulmonary disease.

“Mr. Kim does have positive aspects to his character,” Pohlson said. “A lot of the time – most of the time – he treated people decently.

“Every murder is terrible, but not every murder is a death-penalty case.”

Deliberations will get under way Wednesday. The jury’s only decision now will be whether to recommend that Kim receive the death penalty or be sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole. It is the first death-penalty trial of the year in Orange County.

Kim was convicted by the same jury of six men and six women earlier in March after an eight-week trial of first-degree murder plus six counts of attempted murder for killing Hyun and shooting at several of her friends as they sat at a cafe table.

The jury also found that he committed the special circumstances of murdering for the benefit of his gang, which qualified him for a penalty phase.

Talley argued during the guilt-innocence phase that Kim, who was known to his Asian street gang as “Dragon,” was the shooter who calmly walked into a crowded cafe looking for rival gang members and shot Hyun of Cerritos once in the back.

Three of her friends were wounded before the shooter fled through the back door of the cafe and disappeared into the night. Kim was arrested and charged with being the shooter after a five-month investigation by Cypress police.

Talley built much of his prosecution on the testimony of six former gang allies of Kim, who made deals to plead guilty to lesser charges in exchange for their cooperation. They will be sentenced to prison terms ranging from five to 11 years.

Contact the writer: lwelborn@ocregister.com or 714-834-3784

Originally posted: http://www.ocregister.com/articles/kim-293161-gang-talley.html

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