Trial: The Inside Story

Trial: The Inside Story

by Susan Kuklin

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Reading Trial: The Inside Story is like simultaneously watching a court case on TV and hearing the inner thoughts of the participants.

"This case is going to take you on a journey into an underground world."--Prosecutor Leemie Kahng

"The burden of proof is always on the prosecution."--Defense Attorney Glen Garber

Over one third of high school students don't know basic civics. Here is an exciting way to teach them America's system of justice. Susan Kuklin, whose nonfiction books for young readers have won many awards, gives readers the inside story of a dynamic contemporary court case and uses exclusive interviews with all the participants to explain what happened.

Kuklin had unparalleled access to the prosecution, the defense, the judge, and even, after the case, the jury in a dramatic case involving a kidnapping ring in New York's Chinatown. First, the prosecution describes a plot in which hard men try to take advantage of defenseless immigrants, beat them and extort thousands of dollars from their impoverished families. Then the defense takes us behind the scenes of the shadowy deals struck in jail where criminals might turn on anyone to bargain for lighter sentences. In intimate interviews, Kuklin learns what motivates the tough Korean-immigrant prosecutor and the die-hard liberal defense attorney and uses every explosive courtroom exchange to clearly explain legal concepts such as hearsay evidence, leading witnesses, presumption of innocence and admissibility of evidence. With every twist and turn of the judge's rulings, readers will be on the edge of their seats, wondering who will win the case while simultaneously becoming their own legal experts.

This engaging story of the law at work provides a hands-on way to learn about our courts and laws for young readers who stage mock trials at school or watch cases on TV.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781466860698
Publisher: Henry Holt and Co. (BYR)
Publication date: 12/24/2013
Sold by: Macmillan
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 224
File size: 730 KB
Age Range: 12 - 18 Years

About the Author

Susan Kuklin is the author of more than thirty books for young readers, including Iqbal Masih, which won the Flora Steiglitz Straus Award from Bank Street College in 1999, the Christopher Award-winning Irrepressible Spirit, and the Boston Globe-Horn Book Honor-winning Dance! Ms. Kuklin has also been a professional photojouralist whose work has appeared in many newspapers and magazines throughout the country and in Europe. Susan Kuklin lives in New York City with her husband, a law school professor.

Susan Kuklin is the author of nonfiction books for young adults and children, including No Choirboy: Murder, Violence, and Teenagers on Death Row. She is also a professional photographer whose photographs have appeared in Time, Newsweek, and the New York Times. She and her husband live in New York City.

Read an Excerpt


The Inside Story

By Susan Kuklin

Henry Holt and Company

Copyright © 2001 Susan Kuklin
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-4668-6069-8







TIME: WEDNESDAY, APRIL 15, 1998; 9:30 A.M.




"May it please the court. My name is Leemie Kahng. I'm an assistant district attorney. I am here for the case of the People of the State of New York versus Joe Chen, the defendant, who is sitting right there." Boldly the young prosecutor whips her arm, forefinger pointed, toward a lanky young man who sits expressionless at the defense table. She pauses to let the moment sink in with the jury.

"Earlier, the judge told you that an opening statement is basically a preview of what is to come, as if you are watching a movie. This case is going to take you on a journey. It's going to take you on a journey into an underground networked world that you may not be familiar with. This is the world of a group of Fujianese people. Let me explain who they are."

Leemie is dressed in a light-gray knit suit, very short skirt, white silk shirt, dark stockings, and black high heels. Her makeup subtly draws attention to heart-shaped lips. One might picture her a filmmaker's ideal: beautiful, smart, aggressive. But make no mistake. Leemie Kahng is no actor. She is one hundred percent lawyer.

As the prosecutor, her job is to tell the story of a crime that will be confirmed by the evidence and the testimony of her witnesses. She faces the jury, twelve men and women of various ages and backgrounds, as well as four alternates, chosen in case one or more of the original twelve can no longer participate. The tension in the room does not make her job easy. She continues with her opening statement.

Leemie shows the jury a large map of China that sits on a stand in the "well" of the courtroom. The well, an area cordoned off from the public, is where all the business of the court takes place.

Bernard Fried is the presiding judge. He can't see the map from his raised desk, the bench. He interrupts the prosecutor to explain to the jury that the exhibit is not considered evidence. "I'm allowing it to be used only as demonstrative material to help you understand names."

The lawyer says, very, very respectfully, because she certainly doesn't want to alienate His Honor, "No, judge. This is the map of China."

"I'm sorry," he laughs. "The map is in evidence. I thought you were referring to the other one." To the jury he adds warmly, "You'll see what I'm talking about later. I won't interrupt you again." Everyone, with the exception of the defendant, smiles. Some jurors relax from the easy give-and-take between judge and lawyer.

The prosecutor uses the map to show where the people involved in this case are from in China, specifically, from Fujian Province.

"You are going to learn about a world of long boat rides, a world of smugglers — smugglers who are referred to as 'snake heads.' Snake heads arrange illegal trips from Fujian Province to America. It is a world that includes safe houses that snake heads have provided —"

"Objection," shouts Glenn Garber, the defense attorney.

"Overruled," the judge replies, and Leemie finishes her sentence.

"— when these smuggled aliens are brought into America. The safe houses are where the smugglers keep the individuals until their passage fare is paid.

"It is a world that you will probably find fascinating. It's also a world you will probably find very cruel.

"This case is about two victims, Mr. Wang Dong and Mr. Li Jun, who, as corny as it sounds, came here for the American dream. They came to pursue that dream, only to be betrayed by their fellow countrymen, only to be abducted and kidnapped and held for ransom by their fellow countrymen, and by that defendant who sits there." She glares at the defense table.

Another pause. Leemie softens the pitch of her voice to set the stage for going on to the plot. First she reads the indictments (charges or accusations) against the defendant.

There are two counts of each charge because two different people, Mr. Wang and Mr. Li, were kidnapped.

She moves on to the players in this entangled crime. Some of the kidnappers have already pleaded guilty and are serving time in prison. Leemie shows the jury a chart, the one the judge had referred to earlier, that shows the names of the people involved.

"Another participant in the kidnapping is the defendant's younger brother, Sonny Chen. Their cousin, Luke Chen, also took part in the crime," she says. "He is often referred to as — and this will probably be easier for you — Lew Mook. It's actually a nickname; it means 'Cow Eyes.'"

A third participant is a young woman whose name is Jane Ding.

Jane Ding is an in-law of the three Chens. Her husband is still in China. Later in the trial, Jane Ding will be a witness for the prosecution.

The jury will have a chart to keep track of the names and nicknames as the trial proceeds. The prosecutor continues.

"Another participant in the kidnapping is Johnny Ding. Sometimes he uses an alias. This will become important during the trial. He uses the name 'Charlie Chan.' He, too, will be a witness."

Johnny Ding, a.k.a. Charlie Chan, is a member of the vicious Tung On gang. He is a gangster. A kidnapper. A murderer. He is also a snake head who helped bring Sonny Chen, Jane Ding, and the first victim, Mr. Wang, to America.

The stage is set, and the main characters are identified. On to the plot. "These acquaintances are important in explaining how the two victims were brought to the defendant's apartment on Rivington Street. They will explain that the phone used to call the victims' families was in the defendant's name.

"And what you are going to hear is this: that the world of the victims and the world of the defendant brutally collided during the summer of 1995. You are going to hear from Mr. Wang, the first victim. He came to America on a boat with the defendant's younger brother, Sonny Chen, and their cousin-in-law, Jane Ding. There were maybe a hundred other aliens being smuggled on that boat. The boat ride lasted for months.

"The evidence is going to show that Jane Ding, Sonny Chen, Luke Chen — Cow Eyes — and the defendant sat in the defendant's apartment and planned the kidnapping. Because it was believed that Mr. Wang's family had money, the Chens suggested that Jane Ding call Mr. Wang and bring him to the apartment. When she called Mr. Wang, he agreed to meet her in Chinatown on July 30, 1995.

"Miss Ding then brought Mr. Wang to the apartment. Once inside, he saw the defendant's younger brother, Sonny Chen, and another person who claimed to be Johnny Ding, the man whose nickname is Charlie Chan. That's important, too, and I'm going to provide evidence about this later.

"Soon after being brought to the apartment, Mr. Wang was blindfolded, handcuffed, and beaten. You are going to hear evidence that the defendant took part in the beating, took part in trying to get the victim's phone number in China, and, eventually, succeeded in getting the number from Mr. Wang. Then they called Mr. Wang's relatives in China and demanded ransom money."

Leemie takes a deep breath and moves on to the second victim. "You are going to hear that on August 3 of 1995, Johnny Ding, who lived in another state at that time, ran into Mr. Li, the second victim, at the bus station in Baltimore.

"Johnny Ding suggested, 'Maybe you can come to my friend's apartment before you go to your immigration hearing in New York,' which was the next day.

"When they arrived in New York City, Johnny Ding called the apartment of Joe Chen and spoke to the defendant. Johnny Ding told him, 'I have a person that I just met on the bus. He doesn't know his way around New York.' The defendant said, 'We already have another person here. Why don't you bring him over.'" Both men were kidnapped.

After the victims' families in China paid the ransom, the prosecutor explains, the young men were released. They were warned not to report this crime to the police.

"But the witnesses did in fact call the police, and Sonny Chen, Jane Ding, and Cow Eyes were apprehended."

Now that the basic story line is laid out, the assistant district attorney describes how she will proceed with the trial. "Besides the victims themselves, you are going to hear the testimonies of Jane and Johnny Ding, as well as the detectives who took part in the arrests, and a Bell Atlantic telephone investigator. The collection of all their testimonies, and all of the evidence in the case, will prove the defendant is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt."

Throughout this opening statement, Leemie Kahng stands in the middle of the well of the court. Now she walks directly to the jurors. "You promised and you assured this court that you would keep an open mind. I'm going to ask you at the conclusion of the case — after the evidence has been presented against this defendant, Joe Chen — I'm going to ask you to come back with the only verdict possible: guilty on all charges and all counts. Thank you." The prosecutor quickly takes her seat.

Judge Fried asks, "Mr. Garber, do you care to give an opening statement?"

The defense does not have to make an opening statement. He doesn't have to prove his client is innocent. He doesn't have to prove that his client is a nice guy. He doesn't even have to offer any evidence. He simply has to show that the prosecutor has not proved her case beyond a reasonable doubt. The burden of proof is always on the prosecutor. It never shifts to the defense.

But Glenn Garber will address the jury. He wants them to know his client's version of the events before they hear the prosecutor's evidence.

"Yes, Your Honor," he says. "Thank you." He walks to the jury box.

"Good morning, ladies and gentlemen." A few jurors nod back at him, a bit self-consciously.

Glenn is a good-looking, easygoing fellow, about the same age as the prosecutor. He has a friendly smile and shiny hazel eyes. But in court Glenn is a fierce defender who will fight tooth and nail on behalf of his client. In court he wears business clothing.

When he is away from the courtroom, his uniform of choice is a pair of faded jeans, a T-shirt, and an old wrinkled shirt. Today he is in his blue pinstriped suit, starched white dress shirt, and maroon-and-navy paisley tie.

"Joe Chen was present in that apartment at certain times, and he knew a little bit about the kidnapping," he tells the jury. "The actors are related. They are a family. That is why Joe Chen was there. But the case is about whether or not the prosecutor proves beyond a reasonable doubt that Joe Chen actually participated in this particular kidnapping. I submit that she will not prove that.

"Joe Chen sublet his apartment to his brother. My client was not even living there. Jane Ding convinced Sonny Chen to assist her in a kidnapping. Johnny Ding, the gangster you heard about earlier, is distantly related to Jane Ding. He is actually the leader and orchestrator of this kidnapping.

"Johnny Ding is a convicted murderer. He also has been given a deal by the government to cooperate against this defendant.

"After the investigation revealed that the defendant's name was attached to the apartment, and that the phone was in his name, things twisted. To save his own hide, Johnny Ding, who is actually the leader of this kidnapping, falsely accused my client.

"I submit to you, ladies and gentlemen, that the accusations that the defendant assumed some sort of leadership role, or participated in those kidnappings, are false. The prosecutor will not prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Joe Chen is guilty of the kidnappings. Thank you very much." Glenn Garber takes his seat, leans over, and places his arm around his client's shoulders.

* * *

Throughout the three-week trial, this writer sits in the gallery behind Joe Chen. Every morning, handcuffed and surrounded by guards, he arrives in court before the jury is brought in. Joe must be present with a translator at all proceedings concerning his case. "Good morning," he mouths. I return his greeting. It is hard to imagine that this shy, spike-haired twenty-seven-year-old in a slightly oversized gray suit could be a heartless kidnapper.

Sometimes court personnel pay brief visits to the proceedings. Other times a journalist from a local Chinese newspaper is there. Occasionally there are groups of teenagers on school trips. But most days I am the only nonparticipant in the courtroom. Neither friends nor family visit Joe Chen throughout the proceedings.

Like the two victims, Joe is an illegal alien. But because the crime took place on American soil, this fact plays no role in the trial. Both the victims and the defendant are entitled to the same protection, and must obey the same rules, as any citizen in this country.

Everyone connected to this trial has at least one foot in the door of another country. Either they themselves are immigrants or they are the children of immigrants. Collectively they come from Romania, Korea, Russia, Poland, Austria, China, Cuba, Italy, and Ireland. This then is a trial for immigrants (the victims), of an immigrant (the defendant), and by immigrants (everyone else). And yet the fact that they are immigrants, legal or illegal, plays no role in the proceedings. What unites them — and you and me — is a system of laws that governs every one of us.

In between courtroom sessions, some mornings, and during many lunch breaks, Judge Bernard Fried explains to me what is happening, legally, in court. Because it is inappropriate to tape conversations in the courthouse, we often have these lessons in various Asian restaurants in Chinatown, the neighborhood adjacent to the courts in downtown Manhattan. He will not give his personal opinion about this trial; he speaks only in general terms.

The judge explains that Leemie Kahng and Glenn Garber have two very different objectives. The prosecutor begins with an outline of the evidence that she plans to offer during the course of the trial. Her overall objective is to represent the interests of the state. Her primary task is to present evidence to support the charges.

The defense attorney is to represent his client with zeal. To do so, he will use every legal avenue available to him to make sure the client is properly defended. This includes an important job: to keep the state — and all the evidence the state produces — fair and honest.

The lawyers for each side are to make the best case they can, within the rules of the law. The judge interprets the rules and acts as a referee for the two lawyers. The jury applies the law to the evidence to determine whether the prosecutor has made a sufficient case.


Excerpted from Trial by Susan Kuklin. Copyright © 2001 Susan Kuklin. Excerpted by permission of Henry Holt and Company.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents


May It Please the Court,
Coming to America,
Do You Know Who I Am?,
I Cannot Be Certain,
Female Won't Get into Trouble,
Now I Don't Trust Nobody,
Johnny Ding and Company,
Is This the Truth?,
The People Rest,
The Fruit of the Poisonous Tree,
Hostile Witness,
Witness for the Defense,
Ring of Truth,
We Sit Together as Judges,
Beyond Reasonable Doubt,

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