Court upholds conviction of Army psychiatrist for attempted murder
September 19, 2013
Freehold, NJ — An appellate court panel has upheld the 2006 conviction of a former Army psychiatrist who attacked and tried to kill an Ocean Township woman in 2005, the Monmouth County Prosecutor’s Office said Wednesday.
A three-judge appellate court panel affirmed a Dec. 21, 2011, decision by retired state Superior Court Judge Francis P. DeStefano upholding the conviction of Dr. Cecilia X. Chen, now 38 and formerly of Silver Springs, Md., but currently serving a 10-year prison sentence in the Edna Mahan Correctional Facility for Women in Clinton.
The decision stemmed from a post-verdict hearing that followed a 2011 state Supreme Court ruling remanding the case back to the Superior Court so it could determine if proper identification procedures were followed, Acting Monmouth County Prosecutor Christopher J. Gramiccioni said in the statement.
The panel included panel Judges Jane Grall, Marie P. Simonelli and Allison E. Accurso.
Chen was found guilty by a jury of attempted murder, aggravated assault and weapons offenses following a 2006 trial prosecuted by Marc LeMieux.
Chen was sentenced to 10 years in state prison but appealed her conviction, raising an issue about the inadmissibility of an identification made by the victim after her husband showed her pictures of Chen, a former girlfriend with whom he had no contact over the previous 4½ years until she called him three days prior to the attack.
Prosecutors say Chen went to the Ocean Township home of Helen and Johann Christian “J.C.” Kim on Jan. 26, 2005, posed as a stranded driver to get inside, then stabbed Helen Kim with a kitchen knife. Helen Kim and her unborn child survived the attack.
The case was unusual because after giving police a statement and description about her attacker, Helen Kim drew a picture of her assailant. Her husband said he thought it looked like Chen — his ex-girlfriend who had unexpectedly called him days earlier. His wife knew about that phone call — J.C. Kim had her listen in on the conversation.
Kim asked his wife to look at photos on a website, according to previous reports.
When a large photo of Chen with two other people popped up on the screen, his wife jumped back and said “that's her.”
Upon further questioning from her husband, she said she was 90 percent sure that the woman in the photo was her attacker, because she said the woman in the photo, unlike her assailant, was smiling and was not wearing glasses.
That’s when they printed out two photos and the victim’s sister drew glasses on them.
The case eventually made its way to the state Supreme Court, where the attempted murder, aggravated assault and weapons offenses convictions were upheld Aug. 24, 2011.
However, the case was remanded to the trial court for a hearing to determine the propriety of the victim’s identification of Chen as her assailant.
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