Yesterday Judge Lynn Leibovitz ruled that Victor Zaborsky, Dylan Ward, and Joseph Price were not guilty on all charges over evidence tampering, obstruction of justice, and conspiracy (it was not a court case charging murder). This is another trial by judge, rather than by jury, that ended disappointingly for murdered Asian Americans. Almost 30 years ago Judge Charles Kaufman let Vincent Chin's murderers (Michael Nitz and Ronald Ebens) go with a $3000 fine. Somewhere right now Vincent Chin is rolling in his grave.
The case and events are extremely complicated, but here is a quick recap:
- Prominent lawyer Robert Wone, President-elect of the Asian Pacific American Bar Association, as well as general counsel for the Organization of Chinese Americans and for Radio Free Asia, was murdered in 2006 while visiting the home of a "friend". No charges were filed until 2008, and the charges were only for evidence tampering and obstruction of justice, not any charges of murder. Yesterday, all three defendants were cleared of these charges.
- From the 2008 police report and warrant used to charge the defendants, "the evidence demonstrates that Robert Wone was restrained, incapacitated, sexually assaulted and murdered." The report also suggested a significant time gap between the 9-11 call and Wone's death. The defendants claimed that an unknown intruder came in while all three were home, killed Wone in his bed, and fled.
- Wone was found on his guest bed (arms neatly folded) with 3 large chest knife wounds, and a bloody kitchen knife on a nearby table. Paramedics who initially arrived reported the body appeared to have been recently washed and wiped. There was almost no blood on the body, and all three defendants were found having just freshly showered (and extremely indifferent to officers). Paramedics arrived within 5 minutes of the 9-11 call and reported the dead body cold.
- There was little blood on Robert Wone's bed itself, despite the 3 huge chest knife wounds. There were no signs of forced entry on the property, and no signs of disarray within the property. Nothing was stolen. Despite signs of recent cleaning, police still found trace signs of blood on walls, the floor, a sofa, and door frames, but ultimately botched the analysis for court use. Investigators reported that massive amounts of Wone's blood were unaccounted for.
- A white towel near Wone's body, which the defendants claimed was used to put pressure on Wone's wounds per 9-11 dispatcher instructions, had little blood on it. There were no signs on Wone's body of any defensive struggle, suggesting Wone was drugged or incapacitated somehow. Later analysis discovered 7 needle pricks (possible injection sites) all over his body.
- The needle pricks are interesting, as one of the defendants happens to be an acupuncturist/masseuse. As a side note, one of the other defendants also happens to be a lawyer.
- The biggest flag: the bloody knife found in the crime scene did not match the chest wound cuts. However, a knife missing from one of the defendant's home cutlery sets, was found to be a match for the cuts created on Wone's body. The cutting edge of the bloody knife also did not match the cotton fibers of Wone's shirt. Investigators reported the cuts themselves were very clean and deep, and suggested precise incisions made upon a motionless body. Despite testimony and video interrogation that the knife was physically removed from Wone's body by a defendant, the judge's statement said there was no evidence that the defendants touched the knife.
- An odd fact of the case was Wone's semen was found in his own rectum. After police investigated Wone's past, his body, and people who knew him, they determined he was definitely sexually straight, and was sexually assaulted while incapacitated. One extremely interesting fact is one of the defendants was found to possess several sadomasochist tools in his room, books on electro-torture and sex slave manuals, as well as an electrocution unit which can produce forced ejaculation of an incapacitated person. This defendant also had a history of narcotics use and a history of trips to Thailand and other Asian countries.This verdict is eyebrow-raising. The defendants weren't charged for murder, but for evidence tampering, and still got off not guilty. Part of the judge's statement was she had to let all go, in the small chance that one was innocent. In her mind, there was still doubt that evidence tampering had occurred. Now off the hook, I'm sure the defendants will now earnestly look for the alleged killer of their "friend". Decades ago Vincent Chin's mother left America in disgust over what she perceived to be an unjust justice system, asking "What kind of law is this? What kind of justice?" For some observers of Robert Wone's case, Lily Chin's questions still echo today.