Chun Ren Chen, a former busboy accused of attacking a coworker with a meat cleaver at a Palo Alto restaurant last year, will be tried for attempted murder and other felony charges, Santa Clara County Superior Court Judge Douglas Southard ruled.
Chen, 64, appeared during a pretrial hearing on Monday (Sept. 21) to decide if there was adequate evidence to proceed to trial.
On May 27, 2009, Chen allegedly attacked chef Zezhong Yang at the Jade Palace Restaurant on California Avenue. He allegedly struck Yang several times with a meat cleaver in the restaurant's kitchen. Yang sustained a five-inch gash to his face and a cut to his carotid artery. He had lacerations to his back, shoulder, thumb and neck and a fractured wrist, police reported.
Chen is charged with three felonies: attempted murder, assault with a deadly weapon and aggravated mayhem. He could face life in prison, Deputy District Attorney James Demertzis said.
"I suspect it could always resolve short of trial and he could receive less than that," he said.
Chen admitted to Palo Alto police that he struck Yang several times with the cleaver but claimed self-defense, police reported.
There was reported animosity between Chen and Yang since Chen started working at the restaurant in March 2009. The men began arguing on the evening of the attack, Chen told police.
Yang said Chen had threatened to kill him. He admitted he challenged Chen to "go ahead then." Chen struck him in the face with the cleaver and he tried to reach for a knife in self-defense, Yang said.
Chen said Yang grabbed a broomstick and he grabbed a meat cleaver during the argument. He struck Yang after being hit with the broomstick, he said. He claimed Yang turned around and reached into a knife drawer. Chen said he struck Yang in the back numerous times with the cleaver to preempt being stabbed.
Records show Chen had a previous arrest for a "similar" assault with a deadly weapon in Alameda County in 1997. The case was not prosecuted, however.
Chen had been tortured and "re-educated" in China during the Cultural Revolution of the 1960s, according to court papers. He later had a mental breakdown and was hospitalized.
A psychotherapist examined him in December 2009 and concluded Chen likely has post-traumatic stress disorder, attention-deficit hyperactive disorder and anxiety disorders, according to court documents.
Chen escaped from China and went to Spain and Bolivia prior to coming to the United States, according to the documents. He immigrated without documentation to California in about 1996 and worked at both Jade Palace and Ten Fu, a Menlo Park restaurant.
He will be arraigned on the charges in Santa Clara County Superior Court in Palo Alto on Oct. 4.
Chen's public defender, Jeff Dunn, and Demertzis had tried to work out a plea deal, which has not materialized. Demertzis said a deal could still be worked out before trial but as a prosecutor he "has to be satisfied that justice is served."
Chen's attorney could not be reached for comment.