Will Crying Save Killer Stephenson Choi Kim From Death Row?

SteveChoiKim.jpg
Stephenson Choi Kim: boo-hoo
​You can tell from a photograph shown at his murder trial that Stephenson Choi Kim desperately wanted to think of himself as a tough guy.

In the picture, Kim is wearing that unmistakable hoodlum glare on his face while he points a handgun at the camera. See? I'm fearless, Kim's image conveys. 

Yet, today, inside Orange County Superior Court Judge John Conley's courtroom, the 31-year-old San Gabriel resident and gang member cried over and over again like a baby as his pals, co-workers and family tried to save him from a one-way trip to San Quentin State Prison and Death Row.

My, how times have changed. Kim was stone-cold callous in 2004 when he entered a crowded Cypress restaurant, walked up to a table full of people he'd never met and began shooting. Four people were seriously wounded, and one, a gorgeous 22-year-old named Venus Hyun, was shot dead. Kim fled and enjoyed his newfound rising status in his street gang, according to police. Earlier this month, a jury convicted him and now Senior Deputy District Attorney Cameron Talley is asking the same jury to render the ultimate punishment.  

But defense lawyers called witnesses who testified today that Kim--a person who celebrated his gang life by beating people in public and threatening to kill anyone who got in his way even before the murder case--was, in their opinion, as sweet and cuddly as a newborn puppy.

His stepmother said, "My son is kind and nice. . . . He had a good personality. . . . He was bright. . . . My nickname for him was 'smile-boy.' . . .  He was very compassionate and very respectful to older people, and when they'd visit, he'd smile at them."

Kim sniffled and wiped his eyes while tears also rolled down the face of Juror No. 6, an older female. 

A tall Korean-American man who admitted he'd been a member of a criminal street gang and carried the nickname "Menace" testified that he didn't care that Kim was convicted of shooting innocent people. "I like the guy," he said proudly. "We had a great time together."

A former co-worker described Kim as "very friendly, enthusiastic and energetic. . . . He always wanted to be the best."

She added, "He's an all-around good person. It was a privilege to be around him."

Talley, the prosecutor, asked her if Kim's unprovoked shooting rampage had changed her opinion of him.

This woman quickly responded, no.

Talley asked why.

"My opinion of him is not going to change because of his family values," she replied. "I will always support Steve."

Talley showed the witness a picture of the murdered victim and asked if what Kim had done would change her mind.

"He liked to talk about family values," she said. "So, he is a good person. That--[the murder] doesn't change Steve. I stand by Steve."

The testimony visibly moved Kim.

Then Kim's father testified. He said that when his son was about 4 years old, his mother committed suicide. "He was always a good son," he said. "He would always cling to me, and I saw him giving his mother hugs all the time."

But he also knew that his son had proudly joined a gang. In fact, he couldn't have missed that fact because gang signs had been placed on the walls inside the family's home. 

"I chastized him for that, and he told me he wouldn't do it anymore," Kim's father testified. 

Sitting at the defense table, Kim placed both hands over his face and wept some more for himself.  

The jury will begin deliberations about Kim's punishment tomorrow.

--R. Scott Moxley / OC Weekly
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26 comments
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JCJC82
JCJC82

truth will prevail in time.

wai
wai

Steve was one of my good friends. He really is a great guy and a caring and loving friend, ready to help you out whenever possible. He's smart, well read, respectful. He does not deserve death.

Aledatheoriginal1
Aledatheoriginal1

Justice has been served. I was a victim at the cafe and he was the shooter. The evidence proved it and even his high priced law team couldn't get him out of the horrible crime he did. Throughout the trial there was overwhelming evidence.

Aledalies
Aledalies

There is something wrong with your lie. If you were the victim as you say you were, you would not have access / heard everyones testimony (due to witness collaboration/tainted withness testimony). You basically would not be able to watch the whole trial and would be in another room.

The only people to witness him at the scene were the co-defendants receiving deals.

The Cypress PD wrote false police reports that were nothing like the actual testimonies of witnesses that were audio recorded. Yet, detective susan white straight up lied under oath until the defendants attorneys got a hold of the recording. The DA is letting the actual shooter go out on the streets on friday and trying to slay an innocent man because of is sloppy work and ego. When White was recalled to the witness stand, she admitted that she had been wrong about the certainty of the identification.

Aledatheoriginal1
Aledatheoriginal1

Aledalies after testifying I was allowed to stay in the court room. Granted by Judge and Prosecutor and defense attorney. It is unfortunate that his co defendants are going to be released. The good thing is the perpatrator the shooter will either spend the rest of his life locked up or wait 30 years for death at san quentin. There was overwhelming evidence in the case. An innocent man should take the stand and tell his story if he is so innocent. Justice has been served and it couldnt have been possible without his so called homies and his kite and suicide note that he didnt go thru with. What a coward

Aledatheorinal1
Aledatheorinal1

Yea the 12 jurors just missed it. There just wasn't enough evidence to fin him guilty but he was found guilty. A real man would have wanted to fight one on one again or leave it at that. Gangs are dumb and a 2 way street. With no happy ending. You get to talk to dragon still and web visit him. You should be thankful. He gets free rent and food for the rest of his life. Be happy

To Kill a Mockingbird
To Kill a Mockingbird

"Aledatheoriginal1" is most likely Richard Woodhead because that is the only victim that sat in court after testifying...You can sit there behind your computer screen and post comments but YOU (as you say, you sat in court) should know the evidence did not add up. How is it that in Mr. Woodhead's testimony and even the other victim's testimony, 'cannot recall' ever being associated with Sarzana when there are school records AND police reports states otherwise? Interesting.

Discrepancy #1: Co-Defendants take on whose house they supposedly started the night.Discrepancy #2: Co-Defendants take on who drove what car and who was leading the caravanDiscrepancy #3: Co-Defendants take of what happened after the shooting; some people celebrating, some people "morose"Discrepancy #4: Detective White's falsified police reports on various witnesses "positively IDing" a suspect - heard ACTUAL audio recording of the interview and the witnesses saying they are not sure with who they chose...INTERESTING.Discrepancy #5: Victim's report on their whereabouts about the shooting two weeks prior to 5th Wave Cafe (Oraji)

The list goes on and on...

Consistency #1: Co-Defendants all agree that the Defendant did not have a gun at the time of the shootingConsistency #2: Co-Defendants all agree that the Defendant was not part of the shootings two weeks prior at Oraji (where majority of the victims [specifically four] and many of the co-defendants [specifically four] were all present)Consistency #3: Co-Defendants agree that the Defendant did not come around often and did not partake in the gang activities, many of the co-defendants admitted to not knowing the Defendant - INTERESTING...

SOOOOOOOO, I guess "Aledatheoriginal1" missed all of this information, where you falling asleep in court?

Jenichun45
Jenichun45

You were the so called victim, yet I'm sorry even all the victims in this case lied on stand. Venus Hyun no offense to her, yes her death was tragic. But as the DA stated, you lay your own bed and you pay for the consequences. Sadly, she was dating a bad ass gangsters herself then. Heard she was dating a pretty hard core gangster at the time and she used to visit her locked up bf all the time as well. Even that night, from what I hear, she was there waiting for her gangster bf to show up while waiting around with his friends. Why would such an angel, church going christian girl be hanging around with a bunch of gangsters at a bar? That doesn't make sense. It's one thing for someone to pay the price, but not if it's the wrong person.

How come there is a video recording from one of the Woodhead brother who is now dead, Positively IDing another co -defendant as the shooter, whom he got a close look at since he wrestled the shooter himself? So how are you so sure as a victim that it's the defendant when a victim involved in the case stated it was someone else??

Aledatheoriginal1
Aledatheoriginal1

That guy is a coward. All of a sudden when facing death row the crying starts. He has destroyed hundreds if not thousands of lives from the murder of Venus Hyun. He should have or still should go thru with his suicide that he planned in 04

Holiday
Holiday

I totally agree with Amyroch. There is a lot more to this story and the truth needs to be told. No solid eivdence leads him to be a killer.

Amyroch
Amyroch

When has OC Weekly started hiring HORRIBLE writers?

I came to this site to be provided relevant and unbiased news but OC Weekly is looking like Nancy Grace every day. It's given that this case can cause emotions to run rampant, but I think as a journalist you have to stick with the media neutrality. I think you've forgotten the purpose of journalism, Mr. Moxley.

The idea seems to be that journalists are allowed to go out to report, but when it comes time to write, we are expected to turn our brains off and repeat the spin from both sides. God forbid we should attempt fairly assess what we see with our own eyes. "Balanced" is not fair, it's just an easy way of avoiding real reporting...and shirking our responsibility to inform readers.

"In the picture, Kim is wearing that unmistakable hoodlum glare on his face while he points a handgun at the camera. See?" I've worked with law enforcement (juvenile probation) and I know that that picture was most likely taken 5+ hours after being placed in cuffs. Interviews, searches, etc. have a long time process and this guy has been sitting in the back of the squad car and/or cell. It's called being tired (notice the right eye squint?). Or should I say; I'm TIRED, Kim's image conveys.

I've been following this case since their arrests and given that time allotment (which is unheard of) I believe there is still more to this story. It does NOT take 7 years for the district attorney to build a case, even a complicated case such as this one. Alot of the testimony was falsified, alot of finger pointing and no solid evidence. There are no winners in this case. Just losers.

Mr Moxley, I think the writing staff at Nancy Grace or Glenn Beck are hiring.

anonymous
anonymous

I'm with you purely on the writing critique. I cringe when I open the newspaper; it's full of   bias and plain bad writing. 

Nancy Grace would be proud. 

JCJC82
JCJC82

Totally agree. The media on this case write such biased skewed articles without any real facts. If the shooter was really the shooter why would it take 7 years to build a case around him if it was that obvious? Why did the DA need to give plea bargains to 6 co-defendants to testify against the defendant if it was such a solid case ?? Why did the detectives in this case write falsified police reports? Why is an audio recording of the key most important witness gone? Disappeared?? How come there is no DNA evidence, murder weapon or ANY solid evidence in this case? Case is built around a bunch of lies. Pretty much comes down to DA needs to get SOMEONE for this murder regardless of who really did it or not. If he doesn't get the defendant.. then pretty much he just let everyone walk off free. Not to mention the complexity behind this case. How come the DA NEVER ONCE mentions the fact that the victim who died in this case, at the time of the incident was dating one of the biggest korean gangster in town? Who was locked up several times himself. Who she went and visited several times while being locked up. AND so happens even at the night of the incident, she was at 5th Wave with her gangster bf's friends waiting for her gangster bf to come... but he never showed up and this mess occurred. One juror stated she didn't see the connection between Oraji shooting case and 5th wave case... YET the guy who got shot at Oraji, Elbert Ma so happens to be at court throughout this trial himself to support Venus? How come there is an video recording of one of the victims who got shot, who was the only one who got a close look at the shooter because he actually wrestled the shooter at the Cafe.. who ID'd the shooter. Who happens to NOT be the defendant being charged of this murder. But that VIDEO recording cannot be used in court because the victim is now dead due to an unrelated situation. Yet how come the media never presents any of this? So biased and skewed.

Guest
Guest

Hi Amyroch: It definitely sounds like you're making pathetic excuses for a sick gang killer who proved he does not belong in society. I pray that you find reality. Soon. My heart goes out to the victims of this MONSTER'S senseless crime.

realityfound.
realityfound.

I agree with Amyroch. There's no excuses to be made, but I'm just looking at the facts and circumstances of the case. There's too many holes in it. Cypress police admitted they lied about what happened, witness reports were tampered with, and the only ones who put the defendant at the scene of the crime are his former gang associates, who all lied on the witness stand to save their own lives from being locked up for life. There's stories you read/hear about reported by the media, and you dissect each thoroughly for the facts, and in this case here, the facts don't add up. While I'm not defending Kim, this is an all around sad story for everyone involved.

Junior
Junior

I think the picture was taken while he was free man and you are referring to the mugshot. He would not (or should not) have access to a firearm after his arrest.

No winners here
No winners here

I was not aware his mother killed herself when he was only four. I know that, were that to happen to my family, my life would have turned out miserably, too. Who can bear that kind of burden? It is certainly no justification of the killing of the young lady, but I understand that the purpose of these sentencing hearings is to consider all facts for or against a particular punishment. It seems to me that the fact Stephenson's mother did away with herself must be heavily weighed by the jury.

OCLocal
OCLocal

"He liked to talk about family values," she said. "So, he is a good person. That--[the murder] doesn't change Steve. I stand by Steve."

This woman is delusional. People with family values do not go around shooting innocent people they never met.

Jenichun45
Jenichun45

How are you going to judge a person just based on his life frame during ages 17-24?? All boys during that time get into trouble, fight, beat up each other and so on. BUt you can't judge a whole person's character from one part of his life. In high school, during our time, EVERY asian boy tried to be thug life and a lot of them got into trouble, got locked up, what not... but they aren't the same people today. People can change. As a matter of fact, Steve has family values. And he did not go around shooting innocent people. He's getting framed.

linkiss
linkiss

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Sup
Sup

Worthless Nip

Stephenson Choi Kim
Stephenson Choi Kim

Don't confuse Japanese with Koreans you stupid fucking white nigger.

bruisedfoot
bruisedfoot

is this really steve? im so sorry i hung up on you last week, i couldnt really hear you. call me back (you know who). if not, take care ...

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