As the fourth anniversary of the murder of Dr. Vanjinder Toor approaches this week, the trial of Dr. Lishan Wang, who is accused of Dr. Toor’s murder, remains in legal limbo.
On the morning of April 26, 2010, Dr. Wang, then 44, arrived at Dr. Toor’s condo in Branford, where Dr. Toor lived with his then-pregnant wife and young son. (pictured above.) Dr. Wang is accused of gunning down Dr. Toor as he left his condo and went to his car for his daily trip to New Haven. Dr. Toor was then a post-doctoral fellow at Yale-New Haven Hospital. Click here to read the story of Dr. Wang’s arrest.
Dr. Wang is also charged with attempting to kill Dr. Toor’s wife, Parneeta Sidhu, who began screaming for help. She, too, was the target of gunfire but she was not hit. Dr. Wang was captured by police before he could get onto I-95.
There were witnesses, some of whom testified at a preliminary hearing in April 2011. The three condo residents who testified, all women, were in the midst of their daily morning routines when gunshots rang out. They helped set the murder scene at the Meadows condominiums that morning. Dr. Toor died near his car. He was 34.
Dr. Wang was due back in court today. But his case, which has been listed on the court docket 57 times, was postponed to May 13.
The prosecutor in the case, Senior State’s Attorney Eugene R. Calistro, Jr., said in an interview yesterday that the Wang case has been unique in a number of ways. As for the upcoming anniversary, he said: “It also has been unusually long. I feel sympathy for the victim’s family as to when justice may take place.”
Meanwhile, the case pending in Superior Court on Church Street, has ground to a virtual halt.
Why? Because after Superior Court Judge Roland D. Fasano found Dr. Wang to be mentally competent to stand trial, Dr. Wang decided to fire the full-time public defenders representing him and take over his own defense. As an indigent defendant he is entitled to do that under Connecticut law.
Trial Glitch Develops
But then a glitch developed. Once Dr. Wang gave up his public defenders, the office decided it would not provide him with funds for his defense. In similar situations, the court has stepped in, providing funding from the judiciary budget. But the judiciary budget is strained these days. No funding means no experts and without expert testimony the trial cannot get underway.
In the absence of funds to get the trial moving, Superior Court Judge Patrick J. Clifford, who now oversees the case, came up with a plan.
He did so, he has said in open court, because putting Dr. Wang on trial without expert witnesses will automatically open any verdict to appeal and ultimately to a re-trial. To avoid the time and costs of a second trial, Judge Clifford had the parties in the Wang case ask the state’s highest court, the Connecticut Supreme Court, for its guidance, especially since this issue will affect all indigent defendants who reject representation by the public defender’s office.
Oral arguments were held before the Supreme Court on Oct. 31, nearly six months ago. So far the Supreme Court has announced no decision. Click here to read a story about this unusual appeal.
For Dr. Wang, however, time seems to stand still. Over the years and through many motions he speaks with passion not of his murder case but of a series of events in 2008 at Kingsbrook Jewish Medical Center in Brooklyn. Dr. Wang specifically blames Dr. Toor and several other doctors employed at the hospital for losing his job at Kingsbrook and eventually for destroying his medical career.
The fact that Dr. Wang was declared mentally competent does not mean he won’t raise the defense of mental deficiency or insanity at the time of the crime. He may. But he is coy about his defense. Every so often, however, he submits a motion that goes to the heart of his current mental state.
“Don’t Let the Devil Prevail” Motion
In March, Dr. Wang submitted a motion entitled “Don’t Let the Devil Prevail.” In fact, it appears that he submitted this motion to two courts, the Superior Court in Connecticut and the U.S. District Court in Brooklyn where Dr. Wang has filed a civil lawsuit against Kingsbrook.
The motion centers on alleged abuses at the hands of other doctors whom he often identifies on the basis of their religious affiliation, usually not kindly.
He refers to Kingsbrook Hospital as “Satan” and maintains he was wrongly accused of waving a pen in Dr. Toor’s face on May 15, 2008, and threatening Dr. Toor’s safety. He says he never held a pen to Dr. Toor’s face. He says these assertions by certain doctors ruined his credentials “by falsely labeling Dr. Wang ‘with unacceptable behavior.’” He says those doctors who graphically lied about the pen-to-the- face of Dr. Toor were ALL Indian. He capitalized “ALL” in his motion.
Dr. Wang argues these doctors are “like hyenas, doggedly bullying Dr. Wang and going after Dr. Wang because Dr. Wang is weak, vulnerable and belongs to the most discriminated minority in the USA; also because Dr. Wang has resisted their abuses and vicious slanders.
“The cycle of Satan/KJMC’s lies has ruined Dr. Wang’s career and shattered his family,” he writes in his 15-page motion. His wife and three children were living in Marietta, Ga., at the time of the murder.
Dr. Wang maintains he has not received all the records he has sought from the hospital but Calistro, the prosecutor, says he has received all the information from the hospital and turned it over to Dr. Wang.
At his March hearing, Judge Clifford ruled that Dr. Wang’s “Don’t Let the Devil Prevail” motion was “not an appropriate motion. I understand what you are saying; I understand your frustration, but I don’t know what you mean. I am going to deny it,” he said.
Dr. Wang replied: “I am not an attorney. I can’t testify why I wrote it.”
The judge responded: “A lot of your thoughts are based on your frustrations.”
In another motion, Dr. Wang sought to have his civil case tried before his criminal case. Judge Clifford said “You might want that because you get more information for the criminal case. I don’t have the authority to do that so I am going to deny it,” he said. Typically criminal cases take precedence over civil cases.
Dr. Wang, worrying aloud, said nothing was happening in the civil case. “All those people have been leaving (the hospital). The judge assured Dr. Wang that these people can be located.
Waiting on the Supremes
The state’s highest court took the case on an expedited basis, calling for motions in an expedited fashion and hearing arguments on the issues of payment for experts on Oct. 31. Dr. Wang permitted an outside attorney to represent him in the Supreme Court case. Judge Clifford said back in January that he hoped he would have a decision “so that we could move the case into the next phase. But that has not happened.”
At the March hearing, Judge Clifford said that while he awaits the decision from the state’s highest court, he wanted Dr. Wang to let him know what experts he needed, say, for example in ballistics, DNA, and psychiatry? How many experts is Dr. Wang looking at, the judge asked. By the time the discussion ended, it appeared that Dr. Wang was thinking of many experts.
One expert Dr. Wang has raised before is Dr. Henry Lee, a forensic expert who typically testifies about the cause of death. A medical examiner’s report has previously stated that Dr. Toor died from gunshot wounds.
Judge Clifford asked: “Are you going to request an expert on the cause of death?”
“Yes, that is what we plan to do,” Dr. Wang replied. “We just want to make sure.”
The judge replied: “You don’t need an expert on every issue. It is rare for the defense to challenge a medical examiner’s report,” he said.
“Ballistics?” asked the judge.
Calistro, the prosecutor trying the case, said he anticipated experts in the area of ballistics and firearms.
“Would that be an area you were interested in?” the judge asked Dr. Wang.
“Gun powder,” came the reply.
The judge asked if the prosecution intended to introduce DNA evidence. Calistro said “yes.”
“Was the DNA matched to the defendant’s DNA?” the judge asked the prosecutor.
“Yes,” Calistro replied.
The judge then asked Dr. Wang if he wanted an expert witness for each of his three guns. “Correct,” Dr. Wang replied.
“So we have ballistics, gun powder, DNA,” the judge said.
Another issue that might require expert testimony centered on the GPS that Dr. Wang used to chart his automobile route from Marietta, Ga., where he lived with his family, to Branford, Conn.
Finally the judge and Dr. Wang discussed a possible psychiatric evaluation that may or may not lead to Dr. Wang’s defense in this case.
Judge Clifford observed that the psychiatric evidence in a criminal case is important because it could lead to a claim of not guilty by reason of mental disease or defect. Or it might lead to a defense based on extreme emotional disturbance. So far Dr. Wang has kept his defense to himself.
The judge was careful not to draw conclusions about a psychiatric evaluation but observed there were two pending motions, dating from 2012, on a psychiatric defense.
Dr. Wang said: “I did have depression, anxiety. We do want a psychiatrist who is a professional,” adding he will likely to seek an evaluation.
“Dr. Henry Lee may very useful,” Dr. Wang said although Dr. Lee’s expertise lies in the examination of evidence regarding a deceased person and the murder scene left behind. Dr. Lee is a world-renowned forensic scientist who teaches at the University of New Haven.
In the past the judge has said that Dr. Lee’s fees, if his testimony ever came to pass, would first require a ruling on funding by the State Supreme Court.