Yue Chen was diagnosed with Cancer and had been informed that he would not live much longer. Mr. Chen had been going to multiple specialists in the field for treatment of his worsening condition. Even though Mr. Chen went to all of the visits and went through some treatment there was nothing that could have been done for him. Mr. Chen had now reached stage four cancer. His time was now limited.
On May 31st, 2017, Chen’s family had reported him missing. Police had to go to the Chen family home and the investigating officers had found a typed note. The notes stated, “had to kill these doctors because they are evil.” In addition, Mr. Chen’s computer search history had shown that he had been looking up the doctors and where they live and different offices. Also, two guns with high capacity clips that were registered to Mr. Chen were missing. Mr. Chen said that the doctors treated him like a laboratory experiment, as if he were an animal and not a human. He also states that the doctors hurt his spine on purpose while teaching new medical students.
Mr. Chen was caught by the California Highway Patrol just 20 miles outside of Palo Alto, California. In the car, there was a white rubber mask, a notebook with names, addresses and directions to the homes of several doctors and two loaded guns inside his car. In addition, there was another titled, “Why do I Kill.” The explanation for the killings was once again because how the doctors had treated him and that they were “evil” toward him.
What crime did Mr. Chen commit? Mr. Chen most likely would have committed attempted murder. To prove that the defendant is guilty of attempted murder, the People, or prosecution, must prove that: (1) the defendant took at least one direct but ineffective step toward killing another person or a fetus; AND (2) the defendant intended to kill that person or fetus. California Criminal Jury Instruction 600. There are some nuances to these particular elements that should be looked at in greater depth so that it is clear whether Mr. Chen did or did not commit attempt murder.
The first question we have to ask ourselves is whether Mr. Chen took at least one direct but an ineffective step toward killing another person, the doctors in this case. A direct step requires more than merely planning or preparing to commit murder or obtaining or arranging for something needed to commit murder. A direct step is one that goes beyond planning or preparation and shows that a person is putting his or her plan into action. A direct step indicates a definite and unambiguous intent to kill. It is a direct movement toward the commission of the crime after preparations are made. It is an immediate step that puts the plan in motion so that the plan would have been completed if some circumstance outside the plan had not interrupted the attempt. Cal Crim 600. Here, Mr. Chen did the initial of research on his computer when he looked for the doctor’s location and offices, he may be planning, but it is not necessarily a direct step. It may not be a direct step because it is not really in a direct movement toward the commission of the crime of attempted murder. However, there would more than likely be a direct step by printing off names and addresses of the doctors and buying a rubber mask. But there could be an argument that this is still merely preparation and not a direct step. But it would surely be a direct step when you add all of these acts together and the get in the car with two guns. This is where the direct step was triggered. Because of Mr. Chen’s action here, there would be a direct step taken to murder the doctors. Therefore, because of this direct step the first element to attempt murder would have been fulfilled.
The second question would be whether Mr. Chen intended to kill the doctors. The rule for intent in regard to attempt murder is usually seen as “These elements are related; usually, whether a defendant harbored the required intent to kill must be inferred from the circumstances of the act. People v. Ramos 18 Cal.Rptr.3d 167. (2004). Here, this is pretty easy to fulfill because of the circumstances involved in the case. Mr. Chen wrote, “Why Do I Kill.” Because of that letter, it would basically be enough for the second element in attempt murder. But there is more, the fact he had two guns on him, the addresses of the doctors and future victims. A mask to hide his identity. Lastly his thought of the doctors being pure evil. All of these circumstances show that Mr. Chen did have the specific intent to kill the doctors.
Also, a person may intend to kill a specific victim or victims and at the same time intend to kill anyone in a particular zone of harm or "kill zone." In order to convict the defendant of the attempted murder of the doctors on the list, the People must prove that the defendant not only intended to kill the doctors on the list but also either intended to kill the doctors or intended to kill all the doctors he comes across in the office. There is really no evidence of this. Because there is no evidence that Mr. Chen wanted to kill all doctors it is unlikely that he can be found guilty of multiple doctors in offices. With the evidence, it is likely that Mr. Chen will only be charged with the doctors on the list that he had printed from his computer. Thus, Mr. Chen has completed the second element to attempted murder because he did have the intent to kill the doctors.
Next, we will look to see if this is a first degree or a second-degree attempted murder. For the crime to be a first-degree attempted murder Mr. Chen would have had to act willfully, deliberately, and premeditate the act. Second degree murder is none of those things. The length of time the person spends considering whether to kill does not alone determine whether the attempted killing is deliberate and premeditated. The amount of time required for deliberation and premeditation may vary from person to person and according to the circumstances. A decision to kill made rashly, impulsively, or without careful consideration of the choice and its consequences is not deliberate and premeditated. On the other hand, a cold, calculated decision to kill can be reached quickly. The test is the extent of the reflection, not the length of time. Cal Crim 601. Here, because Mr. Chen had spent a good amount of time getting ready for the attempted crime it would more than likely be a first-degree attempted murder. He spent time deliberating because he went online looked for the victims address and offices in order to find them. This is not something that one could describe as impulsive or a rash decision. Therefore, it is likely that Mr. Chen had committed a first-degree attempted murder.
Lastly, we will look at the punishment Mr. Chen will possibly receive. When one is guilty of first degree attempt murder they are looking at a life sentence with the possibility of parole. Every person who attempts to commit any crime, but fails, or is prevented or intercepted in its perpetration, shall be punished where no provision is made by law for the punishment of those attempts, as follows: (a) If the crime attempted is punishable by imprisonment in the state prison, the person guilty of the attempt shall be punished by imprisonment in the state prison for one-half the term of imprisonment prescribed upon a conviction of the offense attempted. Penal Code 644. However, we should not that Mr. Chen is facing multiple counts because there was more than one victim. This could add upon the years. Also, it depends on how many victims the state finds.
In addition, the California “use a gun and you are done” law may be applicable to Mr. Chen. Notwithstanding any other provision of law, any person who, in the commission of a felony specified in subdivision (a), personally uses a firearm, shall be punished by an additional and consecutive term of imprisonment in the state prison for 10 years. The firearm need not be operable or loaded for this enhancement to apply. California Penal Code 12022.53. Because Mr. Chen had two guns with him this could possibly add to his overall sentence by ten years. Because it is first degree and Mr. Chen used a gun he may be facing a serious amount of time in state prison.
Therefore, Mr. Chen would most likely be guilty of multiple counts of first-degree attempt murder.
If you have questions about the criminal process, please feel free to contact San Diego Criminal Lawyer Vik Monder at 619-405-0063 or visit San Diego Criminal Attorney .