A federal magistrate has recommended that Wai Chiu “Tony” Ng, one of three people convicted in the 1983 Chinatown massacre that claimed 13 lives, be released from prison or granted a new trial.
U.S. Magistrate John Weinberg found that Ng did not receive a fair trial. A U.S. District Court judge would have to act on Weinberg’s recommendation for release or retrial.
John Muenster, who defended Ng in his 1985 trial, praised Weinberg’s report Tuesday as “a victory for the constitutional right to a fair trial.”
Tony Ng was acquitted of murder charges in the case but was convicted of 13 counts of first-degree robbery and sentenced to seven life terms.
His defense to both the murder and robbery charges was that he was acting under duress - in fear of co-defendant Kwan Fai “Willie” Mak. Muenster has maintained his client’s trial was flawed by jury instructions that did not tell jurors to consider duress in deciding the robbery charges.
Mak, the reputed massacre mastermind, and Benjamin Ng, no relation, were convicted of aggravated first-degree murder in the Feb. 19, 1983, slayings of 13 patrons of the Wah Mee club. Benjamin Ng was sentenced to life in prison without parole.
Mak was originally sentenced to death but a federal judge overturned his death sentence in 1992, finding Mak had an inadequate defense. A retrial on the penalty phase of Mak’s case pends.
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