A state appellate court panel upheld an aspiring actor’s conviction for murdering a Koreatown man whose body was found in a suitcase that had been dumped in a trash bin.
The three-justice panel from California’s 2nd District Court of Appeal rejected the defense’s contention that Merdan Haydarov’s conviction should be reversed because the court failed to provide the Turkmenistan-born man with a competent interpreter at his trial and an earlier hearing in which he was ordered to stand trial.
Haydarov spoke to Los Angeles police in English and initially denied he had any involvement in the Nov. 23, 2013, disappearance of Randall Scott Kreeger, but subsequently confessed to the killing after detectives displayed photos that showed him loading the suitcase into the 49-year-old victim’s green Mini Cooper, according to the 44-page ruling.
The appellate panel noted that the defense opted to stay silent about the alleged problems with the interpreter after Haydarov’s preliminary hearing, along with nine other hearings, before raising the issue.
“A defendant cannot request an interpreter, be provided an interpreter in the language he has designated, sit quietly through a plethora of proceedings where the interpreter is apparently translating, and then, after the fact, complain that the interpreter was incomprehensible,” the justices ruled.
The Hollywood man — whom the panel noted spoke “considerable English” and took acting lessons at Santa Monica College — ultimately opted to proceed to trial without an interpreter.
“While he doubtless was unable to communicate with the elegance of an English professor, there was ample evidence to suggest he would have been able to understand the proceedings and communicate effectively with counsel,” the ruling says. “We also conclude that to the extent Haydarov exhibited English language deficits, this fact would have had little or no effect on the course of trial.”
Jurors convicted Haydarov of second-degree murder and found true an allegation that he had used an edged weapon. The panel acquitted him of the more serious charge of first-degree murder.
Haydarov, who was 19 at the time of the crime, began texting Kreeger in early November 2013, according to the ruling.
The two men — whom a prosecutor said had a “dating aspect” to their relationship — arranged for Haydarov to visit Kreeger at his condominium after a series of text messages, and the victim’s friends notified police that he was missing after he failed to respond to text messages and to show up for planned meetings.
Authorities found surveillance videotape from the condominium complex, showing Haydarov going in and out of the building multiple times, including leaving with an overstuffed suitcase.
Police discovered the victim’s body shrouded in layers of plastic and other material inside the suitcase in a Hollywood trash bin, where Haydarov had described leaving it, the justices noted.
Haydarov is serving a 16-year-to-life state prison sentence.