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ORANGE COUNTY

Taxi Driver Guilty in Fellow Cabbie's Fatal Shooting

October 31, 2002|Mai Tran | Times Staff Writer

A jury on Wednesday convicted a former taxi driver of voluntary manslaughter for shooting another cabbie to death after what authorities say began as a murder-suicide pact.

Chae Jung Han, 56, faces up to 12 years in prison when he is sentenced Jan. 31 by Orange County Superior Court Judge Kazuharu Makino.

Han, 56, David Keum Yung Ji, 55, and Hyang Baek, 55, all cabdrivers from Garden Grove, drove around Orange County in Ji's cab April 26, 2000. They were drinking soju, a Korean drink similar to vodka, discussing their financial troubles and contemplating suicide, a prosecutor said.

Han parked the car at the Newport Beach Pier parking lot, where they had planned to carry out their pact, prosecutors say. Han shot Baek in the head with Baek's .38-caliber revolver. After the shooting, Ji--who apparently had changed his mind about dying--struggled for the gun and handed it to police when they arrived.

Ji also faced murder charges, but he pleaded guilty to being an accessory to murder and was placed on three years' probation.

Deputy Dist. Atty. Carolyn Carlisle-Raines said the law prohibits assisted suicides.

"The men were despondent and had talked about dying," Carlisle-Raines said. "But you can't consent to being murdered. The laws of the state don't permit that."

Defense attorney Constance Istratescu could not be reached for comment.

During the monthlong trial she argued that there was no evidence who fired the shot because no recognizable fingerprints could be found on the gun.

Instead, she argued, either Ji fired the shot or Baek killed himself.

The drivers were depressed about their jobs because they had not been hired by a new company that had contracted with John Wayne Airport.

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