The California Supreme Court Wednesday denied a defense petition to review the case of a Taiwanese national convicted of murder for helping to plan a robbery that led to the slayings of two federal drug agents and the wounding of a third during a undercover drug buy more than three decades ago in Pasadena.
Michael Chia, now 54, lost his bid in 2019 for re-sentencing under a new state law that affects some murder cases.
Chia, who lived in Alhambra at the time, was not at the scene of the Feb. 5, 1988, execution-style shooting deaths of U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration agents Paul Seema and George Montoya and the wounding of DEA agent Jose Martinez.
The agents, posing as drug dealers, were carrying $80,000 in cash to be used to buy heroin in an undercover sting when they were killed in Pasadena by William Wei Wang and Frank Kow.
Kow and another man were killed after a chase and ensuing shootout in San Marino later that day.
Chia was retried in 2005 in Pasadena Superior Court after his previous conviction was overturned by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals because of a decision by the initial trial judge to exclude statements from Wang, who is serving a life prison term.
Wang testified during the retrial that Chia had not been involved in the robbery or the murder of the DEA agents.
Chia was convicted for the second time in September 2005 and sentenced the following month to 61 years to life in state prison — the same sentence he had gotten in his first trial.
In a March 16 ruling, a three-justice panel from California’s 2nd District Court of Appeal found that “circumstantial evidence supported the trial court’s inference that Chia harbored the intent to kill when he aided and abetted the murders.”
“When he agreed to assist, Chia knew that Wang and his confederates intended to kill the DEA agents who were posing as drug dealers. Chia engaged in planning activity prior to the killings, thus supporting the inference he also intended to kill the purported drug dealers,” the appellate court ruled.
“Chia engaged in countersurveillance at the time of the killings further supporting the inference. Engaging in multiple acts of assistance over multiple days to ensure his confederates would be successful in killing the purported drug dealers (undercover agents) all support the inference that he shared his confederates’ intent to kill.”
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