World / US and Canada

Liang assembles new defense team

By HEZI JIANG ( Updated: 2016-03-09 10:36

Peter Liang has hired a legal new team to help with his appeal of a jury verdict that found the former New York City police officer guilty of second-degree manslaughter and official misconduct.

Liang assembles new defense team

A man attends a rally in support of former NYPD officer Peter Liang in the Brooklyn borough of New York February 20, 2016. Liang was convicted of manslaughter and official misconduct on Thursday for fatally shooting an unarmed black man, Akai Gurley, in a darkened public housing stairwell in 2014, according to media reports.  [Photo/Agencies]

Paul Shechtman, a New York defense attorney, and Gabriel "Jack" Chin, a California law professor, will represent Liang at sentencing and in his appeal.

Shechtman told China Daily on Tuesday that he has begun reading the transcripts of Liang's trial.

Shechtman is a partner at Zuckerman Spaeder LLP, based in New York. A graduate of Harvard Law School, he has more than 30 years' experience in government service and private practice.

He is known for his appellate work, according to the firm's website. In 2004, Shechtman represented then-governor George Pataki in Pataki vs. Silver in the New York Court of Appeals. The landmark case centered on the governor's powers in the budget-making process,and Shechtman won a ruling that "resolved the dispute in the Governor's favor".

Chin is a teacher and scholar of immigration law, criminal procedure, and race and law at the University of California, Davis. "A" Magazine named him one of the "25 Most Notable Asians in America".

He and his students successfully worked for the repeal of anti-Asian land laws that were on the books in Kansas, New Mexico and Wyoming. According to the university website, Chin's work also has been cited by the US Supreme Court.

It is the second time that Liang has switched attorneys. In November 2015, he dismissed his police union-appointed lawyers and hired Robert Brown and Rae Downes Koshetz.

Brown told NBC News that he and Koshetz will file a motion on Wednesday to set aside Liang's Feb 11 guilty verdict.

Many people in the Chinese community have supported Liang, and a handful of organizations have raised money toward Liang's legal fees. Brooklyn Asian Communities Empowerment and Lin Sing Association alone said they have collected more than $650,000.

Community leaders also have sought support from other Chinese-American lawyers and experts.

Henry Lee, one of the most celebrated forensic scientists in the world, has received calls from about five different Chinese groups asking him to help Liang.

Lee said he told everyone that he would be happy to help and would work pro bono.

However, he can only do so if Liang's attorneys request his help. So far, Lee said neither Liang nor any of his lawyers have contacted him.

"Right now I can only morally support him as a Chinese American," Lee told China Daily.

Lee believes that more forensic work should have been done, but declined to speak further due to his possible future involvement in the case.

Liang is scheduled to be sentenced on April 14, when he faces up to 15 years in prison for the shooting death of Akai Gurley in November 2014.

Liang, a rookie NYPD officer, discharged his gun in a darkened stairwell of a Brooklyn housing project during a vertical patrol, and the ricocheted bullet fatally struck Gurley, a 28-year-old African-American man, on a lower floor.

Liang was the first NYPD officer to be convicted of killing a civilian since 2005, and many in the Chinese community have stated that Liang is a scapegoat.

On Feb 20, tens of thousands of members of the Chinese community held rallies in more than 40 cities across the United States to protest the verdict. A second New York rally scheduled for March 11 was postponed after the organizer consulted with Shechtman, according to the Chinese Action Network Facebook page.

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