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Trials & Litigation

Software Engineer Convicted of Murdering Attorney Who Pursued Wrongful Death Suit Against Him

Posted Apr 12, 2012 8:30 AM CDT
By Martha Neil

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Jason Cai had beaten the rap twice before when tried for murder.

A jury acquitted him of murder and deadlocked on a manslaughter charge in 2006, when he was tried in the death of his second wife, Ying Deng, resulting in a decision by California prosecutors to dismiss the case.

And in 2010 a jury deadlocked 11 to one, in favor of conviction, in the murder of a San Jose lawyer who represented Deng's family in a civil wrongful death case against Cai.

But this month the state tried Cai again in the death of attorney Xia Zhao. The 32-year-old married mother of one was reportedly seen by witnesses being chased by a similar-looking man around the parking lot of her law office in 2008 before she was shot at close range and killed.

Wednesday, the 53-year-old Cai was convicted of Zhao's murder, after the jury deliberated for two days, reports the Mercury News. He will be sentenced in May to a mandatory life term without parole.

Although so fearful of Cai that she took out a restraining order against him and purchased life insurance, Zhao continued representing Deng's mother in matters adverse to him before she was slain. In addition to pursuing a wrongful death case, which blocked Cai from getting a $250,000 insurance payout, Zhao was also instrumental, because she spoke the same Mandarin language as Cai, in helping Deng's family prevent him from inheriting his deceased wife's property in China, the Mercury News reports.

Santa Clara County District Attorney Jeffrey F. Rosen was in court for the verdict and seemed grimly satisfied, the newspaper says.

"This time, Mr. Cai did not escape justice,'' said Rosen in a written statement.

Jurors said Cai hurt himself by testifying in his own defense in the second trial, calling him "very arrogant,'' "smug," "smirking" and "a liar," the newspaper article says. Cai didn't testify in his first trial for Zhao's murder, the article notes.

He was defended by Tony Serra, a renowned San Francisco lawyer.

Brian Welch, who heads the DA's homicide team, prosecuted Cai both times.

An earlier Mercury News article describes the arguments both made.

Additional coverage:

ABAJournal.com (2008): "Slain Attorney Didn’t Back Down from Opposing Party’s Alleged Threats"

ABAJournal.com (2010): "Testimony: Slain in Law Office Parking Lot, Attorney Foresaw Her Fate But Stayed on Case"

ABAJournal.com: "Defendant in Civil Wrongful Death Case Denies Murdering Attorney Who Pursued Suit Against Him"

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