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Taiwan Weighs Punishment for Deported Killer

The Region

Crime: Woman returned to her homeland under a plea bargain served time for the slayings of her husband's mistress and baby in Orange County.

July 25, 2001|STUART PFEIFER and ANTHONY KUHN | TIMES STAFF WRITERS

A Taiwanese woman who was deported as part of a plea bargain in two Orange County slayings is facing new legal trouble in her homeland.

Lisa Peng pleaded guilty last month to two counts of manslaughter for the 1993 killings of her husband's mistress and baby in Mission Viejo.

Now authorities in Taiwan are considering additional punishment in that country, Peng's attorneys confirmed Monday.

"The decision is discretionary," said John Barnett, the attorney who defended Peng in the last of her three trials in Orange County. "I think she has a very strong position. . . . She's been punished already."

According to Taiwan's criminal code, citizens living abroad who commit offenses carrying a minimum punishment of three years in prison or longer are still liable for punishment in Taiwan. Time served in foreign jails may be subtracted from further sentences in Taiwan.

Peng spent more than seven years in custody in California for the killings of Jennifer Ji, 25, and Ji's infant son, Kevin, before her release last month.

It is unclear whether Peng would be retried for the crime or if her guilty plea in California would be enough to cause authorities to punish her.

Peng was deported to Taipei on Thursday, an INS spokeswoman said.

Sheriff's officials and Orange County prosecutors said Monday they were unaware of a possible new prosecution in Taiwan.

Orange County prosecutors would cooperate if directed by the U.S. State Department, said Tori Richards, a district attorney spokeswoman.

Without the power to subpoena witnesses and evidence, Taiwanese prosecutors might have a difficult time building a case against Peng if there is another trial, legal experts said.

"There are some big question marks in how Taiwan could proceed," said Laurie Levenson, a Loyola Law School professor and former federal prosecutor.

Peng's three trials resulted in two hung juries and a conviction that was reversed on appeal.

Chuck Sevilla, the lawyer who handled Peng's appeal, said he thinks Taiwan would not be able to prove she committed the killings.

"I would be surprised if they initiated a prosecution, given the difficulties of prosecuting the case in California," Sevilla said.

Despite her guilty plea, Peng is now proclaiming her innocence.

"I didn't kill the victims. I was treated unfairly during police interrogation [in the U.S.]," Peng told Taiwanese media, adding that she suffered from "racial discrimination" at the hands of California police.

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