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July 10, 2013

Judge relents on bringing murder suspects to court

IPSWICH — All court cases require some level of logistics. But the case of three men charged in the murder of a well-known Ipswich businessman nearly two years ago has posed some particular challenges.

There are three defense lawyers and a prosecutor whose schedules need to line up. Two of the defendants speak Mandarin, while the other speaks Cantonese, requiring the hiring of two court-certified interpreters for each proceeding.

And one of the defendants, who gave a statement to police, is now being held in Norfolk County out of concern for his safety and cannot be anywhere near his co-defendants, who are at the Middleton Jail. That causes not only delays in getting all three to court but concerns about the safety of the defendants and court officers supervising them.

With that in mind, a Salem Superior Court judge yesterday proposed that the next hearing in the case, to determine whether the process of exchanging evidence is complete, be held without the presence of Jun Di Lin, Sifa Lee and Cheng Sun.

The three men are charged in the September 2011 slaying of Shui Keung “Tony” Woo, 62, inside Majestic Dragon, the restaurant he owned on Route 1 in Ipswich.

But when he heard Judge John Lu’s request to hold the next hearing without the three defendants, Lee’s attorney, Lawrence McGuire, took issue.

“It is impossible to vindicate this man’s rights under our state and federal constitutions without him being present,” McGuire, speaking in a raised voice, told the judge.

McGuire argued that Lee is an immigrant who speaks no English and has virtually no understanding of the American justice system, and that not being present in court would add to his sense of alienation from the process.

When the judge suggested that the defendants appear via video, McGuire objected, calling the use of video appearances “abhorrent” and a “poor, pale substitute” for being present in the courtroom.

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