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State of New Jersey v. Jin Sig Choi

April 28, 2011

STATE OF NEW JERSEY, PLAINTIFF-RESPONDENT,
v.
JIN SIG CHOI, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.



On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Bergen County, Indictment No. 04-06-1295.

Per curiam.

NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION

Submitted March 29, 2011 --

Before Judges Yannotti and Espinosa.

Defendant appeals from an order entered by the Law Division on October 19, 2009, which denied his petition for post-conviction relief (PCR). We affirm.

Defendant was charged with murder, contrary to N.J.S.A. 2C:11-3(a)(1) or (2) (count one); and felony murder, contrary to N.J.S.A. 2C:11-3(a)(3) (counts two and three). He was tried before a jury. At the trial, the State presented evidence which established that in 1995, Michael Suh (Suh) was operating markets in East Rutherford, Union City and Hackensack, which together would generate about $30,000 in cash each day. At the end of the day, Suh and his wife Usung would bring the money back to their home in Paramus.

Late in 1994, defendant met Jae Shik Jang (Jang), who introduced him to Sang Sun Lee (Lee). Defendant told his friend Chung Hoon Park (Park) that Jang needed a gun because he delivered bread for a living and had been robbed in the past. Several weeks later, Park purchased a .9 millimeter Smith and Wesson handgun, two magazines and bullets from Pil Jung Kim (Kim). Park met with defendant and Jang, gave them the gun, magazine and ammunition, and they gave him $500.

On the evening of January 4, 1995, defendant drove to the street in Paramus where Suh's residence was located. He dropped off Jang and Lee, drove past Suh's house, turned around and parked the car. At some point thereafter, Suh returned to his home. He was in possession of $20,000 in cash. He testified that there was an additional $100,000 in cash at home.

Suh opened the door to the two-car garage using an electronic door-opening device. Usung opened the door from the garage to the house. She waved and turned to go inside the house. Suh drove his car into the garage, activated the device to close the garage door, and noticed a man with a ski mask in the garage near Usung's vehicle. Suh sounded the horn to warn Usung of the danger.

Suh observed that another man, who was also wearing a ski mask, had entered the garage before it had fully closed and apparently tripped the device causing the door to open again. The man approached Suh's car, pointed a gun at him and pulled the trigger. The gun did not fire. Suh backed his car out of the garage. He saw Usung, who had returned to the garage. He drove away.

The police were called. They found Usung's body. She had been fatally stabbed. Two .9 millimeter bullets were found on the garage floor. The following day, the police recovered a blood-stained knife in a nearby embankment. Tests revealed that the blood on the knife was Usung's blood.

Several weeks later, an individual found a .9 millimeter handgun and a magazine on a bicycle path in Ridgewood. Tests showed that the gun was operable and the bullets found on the floor of the Suh garage had been fired from that gun. Using the serial number of the gun, the police were led to Park, who told them that defendant had purchased the gun from him.

In May 1996, Jang was located in Montana. He was returned to New Jersey and charged with murder. In 2003, the investigators learned that defendant was in Korea. He was arrested there, returned to the United States and transported to the offices of the Bergen County Prosecutor. After being informed of his Miranda*fn1 rights, defendant agreed to give the detectives a statement.

Defendant initially denied any involvement in Usung's murder but then said that he met Jang and Lee in New York on the night of January 4, 1995. Jang told him that he had "business" to take care of in New Jersey, and defendant drove them to Suh's residence in Paramus. Defendant stated that he had previously arranged for Park to sell Jang a gun. He did not know who obtained the knife. He said that Jang and Lee had ski masks but he did not know where they had obtained them.

Defendant was convicted on all three counts. The court merged the felony murder convictions with the murder conviction, and sentenced defendant to life imprisonment, with a thirty-year period of parole ineligibility. A judgment of conviction was entered on ...


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