California, Crime, Deaths, Murder, Violence

How Many Trials Does It Take to Get a Murder Conviction? The World May Never Three.

Jason Cai is going away for a long, long time.

Yesterday, it appears some justice was finally served in a tragic Silicon Valley murder case. A jury convicted Jason Cai, a 53-year-old software engineer, in the grisly murder of a young attorney.

Prosecutors say the killing was an act of revenge. Let’s learn more about the attorney who picked the wrong case, as well as Cai, who at this point has ridden the murder trial rodeo more times than anyone should…

Cai’s legal back story is complicated… and grim. The Mercury News helps us out:

This time, the jury deliberated only two days before finding Jason Cai, 53, guilty of ambushing lawyer Xia Zhao in the parking lot of her San Jose office on Hamilton Avenue. Cai shot Zhao, a 32-year-old wife and mother, twice — the second time at such close range that the muzzle left an imprint on her chest.

Ugh. Don’t think about that image too much if you want to be able to sleep tonight. But that’s just the beginning:

Nineteen months ago, Cai was tried for the first time for killing Zhao, including the special circumstances allegation of lying in wait. But the jury deadlocked 11-1 in favor of conviction after struggling for about four days to reach a consensus. Cai has been in custody since shortly after Zhao was killed in 2008.

Cai racked up his first victory against the criminal justice system six years ago, after his wife, Ying Deng, drowned in 2003 in the pool of their Cupertino home. The murder trial in 2006 was closely covered by the Chinese media. Despite evidence Deng had been hit on the head, the jury acquitted him of murder and deadlocked on manslaughter, prompting prosecutors to dismiss the case.

To sum up: Cai was tried and acquitted of murdering his wife in 2006. The wife’s mother filed a wrongful death suit, in which Zhao served as attorney. Zhao was murdered in 2008, and prosecutors said Cai targeted the young lawyer in order to stop the suit. When he was first tried for the killing, the jury deadlocked. He was finally convicted in the new trial yesterday. The Mercury News says he will be sentenced to life in prison without parole.

The American court system in action. Fun and efficiency at its finest.

Unfortunately Zhao is the proof that the work of an attorney can be a whole lot more exciting — and deadly — than sitting in an office pushing papers all day:

[Prosecutor Brian] Welch painstakingly proved that Cai had stalked and threatened Zhao and other lawyers in an effort to stop them from representing his dead wife’s mother in a $15 million wrongful death lawsuit she filed against him.

Zhao, the only lawyer in the case who spoke Cai’s native language of Mandarin, also helped the wife’s family block him from inheriting her property in China. Cai also was frustrated because the wrongful death lawsuit prevented him from collecting on his wife’s $250,000 life insurance policy.

Zhao was so fearful of him she took pictures of him with her cell phone, bought a life insurance policy and pursued a restraining order against him to protect herself.

Those details make this story all the more sad. Even though various people, including the victim herself, were aware of the threat Cai posed, nothing was done (or perhaps, could be done) until it was much too late.

It seems the most recent trial turned out differently in part because the jury was appeared to be much more skeptical, from the beginning, than the juries who heard his previous trials:

“He hung himself,” said one juror who declined to give his name. “He was very arrogant.”

Others had even less flattering thing to say about him, calling him “smug,” “smirking,” a “liar” and “blank.” Cai did not testify in the first trial on Zhao’s murder.

Obviously being dislikable, even greatly so, does not make one a murderer. But it clearly did not help Cai’s cause in court. Especially seeing as he faced charges of shooting a young woman, who was also a mother, at point blank range in broad daylight.

Our condolences go out to Zhao’s family. Cai’s conviction will not bring her back, but hopefully it will provide them some measure of closure.

San Jose software engineer Jason Cai found guilty of murdering lawyer Xia Zhao [Mercury News]

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