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Court Hears Arguments Over DNA Testing For Xinran Ji Trial

Phoenix Tso |
November 19, 2014 | 3:44 p.m. PST

Staff Reporter

Three of the four defendants and their attorneys at the Xinran Ji murder trial readiness hearing. Phoenix Tso/NT.
Three of the four defendants and their attorneys at the Xinran Ji murder trial readiness hearing. Phoenix Tso/NT.

The prosecutor and attorneys for four accused killers of USC student Xinran Ji argued in court Monday about whether separate DNA tests should be conducted for each of their clients.

Judge Renee Korn gave the defense attorneys until Dec. 2 to decide whether they would have one observer represent them during a DNA test. She also set Dec. 4 as the preliminary hearing date to determine if there’s enough evidence to order a trial.

L.A. County’s Deputy District Attorney John McKinney said he’s worried there wouldn’t be enough DNA evidence for all four defendants’ attorneys to conduct separate tests. He requested that the defense share one observer.

SEE ALSO: At Courthouse, Xinran Ji's Case Attracts Chinese Supporters Across California

The attorney for Alberto Ochoa argued against this, saying that since all defendants have given conflicting statements of what happened on the night of Ji’s death, he would prefer to have his own separate observer.

Judge Korn asked that all parties determine how many observers would be present by the Dec. 2 status update. She also asked that Deputy D.A. McKinney file a request to have the court split the cost of testing with the taxpayer by then. 

I think that this issue needs to be resolved sooner rather than later,” said Korn, specifically addressing the DNA issue. “If you have a specific opinion as to whether it should be one individual on behalf of the defense or individuals, so that the court can understand the complexities of such a request.”

Xinran Ji was a USC student from China who was murdered while walking home from the school’s University Park campus on July 24. The defendants—Jonathan Del Carmen, 19, Andrew Garcia, 18, Alberto Ochoa, 17, and Alejandra Guerrero, 16—have been charged with Ji’s murder, with a special circumstance of committing it during an attempted robbery. 

Ji is the third Chinese student to be killed just off-campus in the past two years. On Monday, a judge sentenced Javier Bolden to life in prison without parole for the shooting death of USC students Ying Wu and Ming Qu in 2012. 

SEE ALSO: Chinese Community Looks Back As Xinran Ji's Case Moves Forward

During Wednesday’s proceedings, each defendant stood behind a glass barrier with their respective lawyers. Supporters for both sides filled the aisles, with 15 Chinese community members from the China Inner Mongolia General Chamber of Commerce, the province where Ji was from, showing up on behalf of Ji’s parents, who are currently in China. 

After the status update, Rose Tsai, the attorney representing Ji’s parents, held a Chinese-language news conference on the 12th floor of the Clara Shortridge Foltz Criminal Justice Center to recap the proceedings for Ji’s supporters. Speaking to the issue of whether each defendant is entitled to a DNA testing observer, Tsai expressed optimism that Deputy D.A. McKinney could proceed even if the results aren’t ready by Dec. 4. “He told me that he can probably still proceed, because he has other sufficient evidence,” she said.

Tsai also expressed concern that the preliminary hearing could be delayed from Dec. 4. During the proceeding, Garcia’s attorney had asked for such a delay to give more time to prepare. Korn said that the defense would have to formally request a delay by Dec. 2 for her to consider such a change. 

“We hope there’s not any more delay,” Tsai said. “The speedier this case proceeds, the more inspired [Ji’s parents] will be.”

Reach Staff Reporter Phoenix Tso here. Follow her on Twitter here.



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