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Orange County

Deaf O.C. Man Is Convicted of Killing Neighbor

He is found guilty of lying in wait to murder a teenager because of racial hatred. The sanity phase of the nonjury trial begins Monday.

September 11, 2003|Scott Martelle | Times Staff Writer

An Orange County man at the center of a legal debate over the reading of rights to deaf suspects was convicted of murder Wednesday for an attack that prosecutors contended was motivated by ethnic hatred.

In a nonjury trial, Orange County Superior Court Judge Kazuharu Makino found Christopher Hearn, 22, guilty of murder and the special enhancements of lying in wait and targeting his victim because of his ethnicity.

The second phase of the trial -- to determine whether Hearn was legally sane at the time of the killing -- begins Monday.

Neither public defender Lisa Kopelman nor Deputy Dist. Atty. Carolyn Carlisle-Raines could be reached for comment.

Hearn was convicted of stabbing his Laguna Hills neighbor, Kenneth Chiu, 17, about midnight July 30, 2001, as Chiu returned home from a date.

Before he died, Chiu identified Hearn as his attacker.

Investigators conducted a videotaped sign-language interview of Hearn, who is deaf and cannot speak, in which Hearn said he had stabbed Chiu and that he hated Asians and other ethnic minorities.

The defense had sought to have the videotape thrown out on the grounds that investigators used a sign-language interpreter who was not court-certified and failed to properly advise Hearn of his Miranda rights.

Kopelman also had argued that the interpreter failed to establish Hearn's sign language proficiency before the translation.

Makino ruled against the defense motion Monday and convicted Hearn on Wednesday.

Hearn faces a maximum possible sentence of life in prison without parole.

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