HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — A newlywed convicted of killing his wife of just three weeks during an argument over new tires should get a new trial, the state's top court ruled Monday, finding that the jury issued conflicting murder and manslaughter verdicts.
State Supreme Court justices were unanimous in declaring that the jury should not have convicted Chihan Eric Chyung of both charges, because murder is an intentional act and manslaughter is a reckless, unintentional act. A new trial date has not been set.
The 53-year-old Chyung was convicted in 2014 in the fatal shooting of Paige Bennett, a 46-year-old nurse's aide and mother of three, in their Norwich home in 2009. He was sentenced to 40 years in prison on the murder conviction. A judge dismissed the manslaughter conviction, saying Chyung couldn't be convicted of two homicide charges for one act.
Chyung testified that the 9 mm pistol fired by accident as he was trying to pack it in a bag while getting ready to leave their home during an argument. He said he and his wife were fighting about how much she paid for new tires for her truck. He told her she paid too much.
"I killed my wife. I killed her. I didn't mean to. She's dead," he told a dispatcher during a 911 call, two hours after the shooting.
Prosecutor David J. Smith told the jury during his closing argument that the killing was intentional. He called Chyung an angry man, and Bennett's family alleged he was violent — claims contradicted by witnesses for Chyung.
Smith did not immediately return a message seeking comment Monday.
Chyung's lawyer for the appeal, Conrad Seifert, said he was happy and relieved by the high court's ruling. He said he was going to prison to tell Chyung about the decision Monday.