“I think the jury got it wrong, and so we are asking you to sit as the 13th juror,” the defense attorney for Bryan Chenhua Chang said to a judge today, January 13.
The attorney requested a new trial for the 33-year-old man who admitted last October that he killed his mother; he was found sane the following month, at the end of a three-week sanity trial.
Chang was mentally ill and so “it’s not his fault” that he killed his mother, Sherry Chu Chang, according to private defense attorney Kathleen Cannon. “Bryan was spiraling into a severe mental illness” when he killed his mother in her million-dollar Solana Beach home in January 2010.
Bryan Chang had “psychotic breaks with reality” and “he didn’t just kill her but destroyed her,” his attorney stated. During trial it was revealed that Bryan, then 28, beat his 60-year-old mother to death with a hammer. “This was an extreme amount of violence,” Cannon told a judge, “beyond what was necessary to kill any human being.”
A report prepared by a probation officer who interviewed Bryan Chang stated in part: “It appears he has blocked out or is in denial of most of his horrific actions…. [He] believed he hit his mother twice in the head and she went down.” It was only after the probation officer specifically asked that “he admitted to cutting off his mother’s arm and placing it in the refrigerator. He would admit to nothing else.”
But prosecutor Rachel Solov told the judge that Bryan Chang “has a history of manipulating situations to his benefit” and she questioned his claims of delusions at the time he killed his mother.
The prosecutor argued that Bryan’s statements to detectives, which were video-recorded and shown to jurors, showed his “consciousness of guilt” because he denied his acts to police. Solov told the judge that “it would be a miscarriage of justice” to overturn the jury’s verdict.
Judge Harry Elias, the same judge who heard the trial, agreed that the defendant did suffer from paranoid schizophrenia. The judge also said he looked at statements that Chang made “closest in time” to the actual killing and concluded “it was clear” that Byran Chang was able to distinguish right from wrong, both legally and morally.
A statement written by Sherry Chang’s niece (she asked not to be named) was read to the judge; she stated that the vicious nature and circumstances of her aunt’s death caused deep wounds on surviving family members and even now, “years after her death,” they struggle with hurt and fear.
The same probation report also declared: “The defendant said he has had time to reflect upon his actions and what he did is a ‘terrible mistake and tragedy.’… The defendant said he is doing better mentally due to the medications…. The defendant wishes the Court to know that at some point he is hoping for parole. The defendant said, ‘If I am released into the community, I still have something to contribute.’”
Judge Elias declined defense’s request for a new trial, denied probation, and sentenced Bryan Chang to state prison for 25 years to life. The admitted murderer currently has 1813 days of custody credits and “He will be eligible for parole in about 20 years,” according to Solov.