In a series of motions a criminal defense attorney would have barred, Dr. Lishan Wang explained his motives for setting out to murder Dr. Vanjeer Toor two years ago last week in an ambush shooting outside his condo in Branford. Wang is also accused of attempting to kill Toor’s wife.
In one of his motions seeking documents about Dr. Toor, Dr, Wang, who is representing himself, described Toor’s conduct against him when the two were physicians at Kingsbrook Jewish Medical Center in Brooklyn, N.Y., as “malicious,” “disgusting,” “hurtful” and “evil.” Many of the statements in the motion could be viewed as admissions of guilt, the judge said.
“It would help if you ran these motions by your stand-by counsel,” Superior Court Judge Roland D. Fasano told Wang during a 90-minute hearing, the 30th time the case has been on the court docket. Dr. Wang, who’s 47, is being held in $2 million bail. No member of his family has attended any of his court appearances.
Judge Fasano, who is presiding over the case, began the court session by saying that until this point, Dr. Wang had filed motions that made sense.
But the judge said he was not happy with some of the motions and with a series of poems and letters Dr. Wang addressed to him. “You have to understand you are here for a legal process, for a trial. Poetry and philosophy are not relevant to this case.”
“You do want a trial,” Judge Fasano (pictured) asked Dr. Wang as he stood at the defense table wearing a bright orange prison jump suit.
“Yes,” came the reply. (Dr. Wang has the option to plead to the charges if the prosecutor agrees.)
The last batch of motions, the judge noted, were not on point for a murder trial and did not advance the judge’s need to set a date for trial, he said.
Judge Analyzes Motions
“These latest group of motions to a large degree are repetitious, irrelevant to charges filed and at times may be considered slanderous to others.” The judge was referring to some of the language and accusations that Dr. Wang leveled against a number of other doctors, both at Kingsbrook and other facilities. The Kingsbrook federal case is still pending.
In a motion seeking to subpoena documents and information on Dr. Toor, Dr. Wang referred to Dr. Toor in the present tense and also referred to an attorney no longer representing him as still representing him. Writing as if Dr. Toor were alive, Dr. Wang said he needed to gather evidence from Dr. Toor for his (Dr. Wang’s) case against the Kingsbrook Jewish Medical Center, “which the defendant is vigorously pursuing until this very day.”
“The defendant needs this key witness, and both the defendant and his attorney Ms. Rodriguez have been looking for Dr. Toor all the time for a deposition and a testimony in the upcoming trial of the civil case in New York.” This motion is dated April 10, 2012. Dr. Wang filed a civil lawsuit against the Kingsbrook hospital in U.S. District Court in Brooklyn in 2009.
During the course of the hearing, Judge Fasano stated firmly but gently that it might be easier for Dr. Wang if he used his stand-by court-appointed public defender, Jeffrey LaPierre, instead of representing himself. The judge later denied Dr. Wang’s motion for an outside special counsel. Dr. Wang has insisted so far that he represent himself, despite increasing difficulty.
For example, the judge learned for the first time in court yesterday that for an unspecified reason Dr. Wang was moved from the Garner Correctional Institute in Newtown to the MacDougall-Walker Correctional Institution, a high -security prison in Suffield. Unlike Garner, which had a library and some law books, MacDougall-Walker has no library at all.
“He went from sparse resources to a place with no resources,” said LaPierre.
The judge said: “This is just one more reason why you should have an attorney. An attorney has access to law libraries. This is a difficult process for you.” The judge again warned Dr. Wang that his motions were filled with admissions. “These are things attorneys wouldn’t do.”
Dr.Wang listened hard. “I agree with you,” he told the judge. Then he added: “I am not changing my mind.” He said he had fundamental differences at least with his prior public defenders in “strategy and in the approach to the defense.” The judge urged him to sit down with LaPierre to discuss these issues.
Prior Mental Issues
Judge Fasano has ruled previously that Dr. Wang is entitled to call experts at his trial and there was some discussion yesterday about how this would be accomplished.
In one of his motions disclosed yesterday, a motion for an appointment of a psychiatric expert, Dr. Wang raised his past mental issues in connection with helping him to determine if he should consider “insanity” or “extreme emotional distress” as part of his defense in this murder case.
While he says he maintains his innocence, he said in this motion that in the past his prior employer, Kingsbrook Jewish Medical Center, had labeled him as “mentally unstable, violent and progressively getting worse, and had asked the defendant to take a mental disability benefit in June 2008.”
Kingsbrook’s observations, Dr. Wang wrote, “should be examined clinically in order to determine whether the defendant should be considered as ‘insane.’”
The judge then went on to deny a motion sought by Dr. Wang asking the FBI to investigate doctors at Kingsbrook hospital. “The FBI is not available to you,” the judge said.
Once again Dr. Wang noted the problems of representing himself while in prison. He said he thought La Pierre “was a good-guy” but he needed a special outside counsel because LaPierre was a busy attorney. The judge denied this motion, saying outside counsel would have many cases as well.
The poems Dr. Wang wrote and sent to Judge Fasano are an effort to show the judge the various sides of his personality. He labeled them, saying “the defendant” could be spiritual or fuzzy, philosophical or compassionate, observant, or sarcastic. His last poem, “I am a Different Species,” says in part, “Injustice invigorates me like a trumpet / Calling for a march to the battlefield.”
Injustice as a reason for his actions weaves throughout his legal motions as well. He blames Dr. Toor, his boss at Kingsbrook, for bullying him and other doctors and for creating a set of circumstances that led to his dismissal at Kingsbrook and an end to his medical career. Branford police have said Dr. Wang sought revenge against Dr. Toor and two other physicians whom he blamed for ending his medical career at Kingsbrook
At the time he was murdered, Dr. Toor was a post-doctoral fellow at the Yale School of Medicine.
Explaining Criminal Procedure
As the motions were discussed, judge and defendant engaged in a discussion on criminal procedure as Dr. Wang sought to understand who subpoenas witnesses and whether they have to show up to testify.
For example, the judge told Dr. Wang that the judge does not subpoena a witness, a lawyer does. If a witness does not want to testify he or she can move to quash the subpoena and a hearing is held. At one point Dr. Wang said he wanted to subpoena documents and other material from Kingsbrook.
At that point, the chief prosecutor, Senior Assistant State’s attorney Gene R. Calistro, Jr., stood to tell the judge that he had contacted Kingsbrook hospital officials and had learned the hospital would, in fact, move to quash a subpoena. It would then be up to the judge to decide if the material was relevant and necessary to the murder trial, the judge said.
A year ago Calistro established by a preponderance of the evidence at a probable cause hearing—a hearing Dr. Wang sought—that Dr. Wang committed the Toor murder.
The case has reached the point where Dr.Wang has taken steps a criminal lawyer would not have allowed him to take. These motions are public once filed with the clerk of the court. LaPierre was not asked by Dr. Wang to review the motions because Dr. Wang is his own counsel.
Judge Fasano showed obvious concern about the nature of the motions and delays encountered in getting Dr. Wang up to some sort of legal speed for the trial.
After a discussion between the two about the basics of criminal procedure, of the nature of exculpatory information, of the difficulties encountered in subpoena issues, Dr. Wang said: “As you mentioned, it is not easy representing myself. “
But the poet-author-motions-writer was not yet ready to give up his status as “pro se defendant.” Dr. Wang acknowledged that his stand-by attorney was only stand-by. “Jeff is working hard for me. But he has his own cases. He has limits on how much he can help me.”
Judge Fasano set May 29th at 2 p.m. for the next court date.