California Supreme Court Upholds Death Sentence in Irvine Murder

State Supreme Court justices on Monday upheld the death sentence of a 47-year-old man convicted of the torture murder of an 18-year-old woman in Irvine in 1995.

However, the state’s highest court overturned a gang enhancement for Ronald Tri Tran due to recent changes in the law.

Co-defendant Noel Jesse Plata, also on death row for the murder of Linda Park, died on December 14, 2020 in prison.

The two went to Park’s home to steal money and valuables and when they found her there they tied her up and cut her neck to coerce her into driving them to the loot, according to the court’s decision. Evidence at trial showed the victim could have died from a cut on his neck, but it would have taken a long time to bleed out, according to the ruling.

Park was strangled with an electrical cord, according to trial evidence.

The victim’s father used to stuff hundreds of dollars into a jacket in a master bedroom closet so the family could pull out the petty cash when needed. This money and the victim’s mother’s jewelry were stolen.

Investigators found part of Tran’s DNA on the string used to bind Park, according to the ruling.

However, prosecutors based their case on statements Tran and Plata gave to friends as well as a confidential informant at the Santa Ana prison, who was working undercover for authorities in what is called Operation Perkins. .

The informant, Qui Ly, told investigators that while he was being held in Anaheim Jail in October and November 1997 with Tran, the defendant told him about the murder. Ly was facing a 31-year-to-life burglary case due to previous strikes, so he showed up to try to get prosecutors a break.

Investigators then placed Ly in a cell in the Santa Ana jail with Tran and Plata and recorded their conversations.

Tran’s 1995 girlfriend, Joann Nguyen, testified that she was friends with Park in high school, but after attending Irvine Valley College, they broke up.

“When Tran asked if Nguyen knew anyone with money or jewelry, Nguyen said Linda (Park) had some. And she drove Tran to Linda’s after he said he was going to rob Linda “, according to the decision. “Nguyen said Linda never told him where her father kept money or where her mother kept jewelry.”

Tran switched cars with Nguyen on Nov. 9, 1995, because he thought his car would look too suspicious in the Irvine neighborhood, the court ruled. Later that night, when the two men returned, she said they were “anxious and hyper” and Tran told her “they robbed and killed Linda,” according to the ruling.

Tran later told Nguyen she was killed because he didn’t want her to identify him, according to the ruling.

“After Linda’s death, Tran received a new tattoo on the side of his neck, which he told Nguyen had said ‘Forgive me’ in Korean,” the ruling said.

The state high court rejected defense arguments about juror misconduct, the decision to try the two together and the admission of hearsay evidence through a gang expert. The foreman of the jury wrote a three-page document summarizing his views on the case, which included a news report he saw on the death penalty in the state during the trial. The judge did not find this to be juror misconduct.

About Jessica J. Bass

Check Also

Unanimous decision-making is essential to preserve the legitimacy of the Supreme Court

After the leak of the Supreme Court’s draft opinion rejecting abortion rights, public confidence in …