POLITICS

Jury weighs fate of Toronto-area woman accused of ordering hit on her parents

12/10/2014 11:37 EST | Updated 02/09/2015 05:59 EST
NEWMARKET, Ont. - A Toronto-area jury is now weighing the fate of a woman accused of plotting to have her parents killed in a phoney home invasion because they disapproved of her boyfriend.

Jennifer Pan, 28, is charged with first-degree murder and attempted murder in the attack that killed her mother, 53-year-old Bieh Ha Pan, and left her father, 60-year-old Hann Pan, on the brink of death.

Three others — Lenford Crawford, David Mylvaganam and her on-again, off-again boyfriend Daniel Wong — are also facing the same charges in the Nov. 8, 2010 slaying at the Pan's Markham, Ont. home.

A fifth co-accused, Eric Carty, is now to be tried separately after his lawyer fell ill during the 10-month trial.

"Killing her parents would give Jennifer Pan everything she wanted in life," the Crown said in a summary read in court Wednesday.

A sheltered young woman who "craved attention" and loved her high school sweetheart to the point of obsession, Pan would finally achieve her dreams — to stay with Wong, bask in sympathy and live off the family estate, prosecutors said.

The plan would have succeeded if it wasn't for three crucial mistakes, they said: the intruders didn't kill Hann Pan, who went on to testify against his daughter; they did a "pathetic job" staging the scene as a robbery, forgetting to take anything with them; and they didn't realize that data left on Pan's so-called "secret murder phone" could link them together even with the SIM card missing.

In his final instructions before deliberations began, Judge Cary Boswell told jurors they must first decide whether they believe beyond a reasonable doubt there was a plan to commit murder and attempted murder that night.

If they believe such a plan existed, the judge said, they must then determine whether each defendant participated in the plan, and knew that another accomplice meant to commit murder and attempted murder, and intended to aid and abet them. That would lead to a conviction of first-degree murder and attempted murder, he said.

Should they conclude there was no murder plan, they must consider whether there was an agreement to commit a robbery — which would make Pan a victim along with her parents, he said. Pan's lawyer has argued that the attack was a robbery gone wrong, and that his client had no role in organizing it.

In that case, the jury should decide whether each of the other accused took part in that agreement, and whether they knew that someone would probably commit murder and attempted murder during the robbery, Boswell said. If yes, then the accused in question would be guilty of second-degree murder and attempted murder, he said.

Jurors can also find that a defendant didn't know murder or attempted murder were likely to happen, but that a reasonable person could have foreseen there was a "risk of harm" to the Pans in carrying out the robbery, the judge said, noting that all three intruders had guns.

If so, that would lead to a manslaughter conviction, he said.

Prosecutors allege Pan came up with the murder plan after receiving an ultimatum from her parents, forcing her to choose between Wong and her family.

The couple had recently discovered that much of what their daughter had told them about her life — including that she had graduated university and was living with a friend — was part of an elaborate deception built over roughly 10 years, court heard. Finding out she was in fact living with Wong was the final straw, the jury heard.

Pan and Wong secretly stayed in touch but their relationship grew strained, prosecutors said during trial. She nonetheless asked him for help in planning the hit, the Crown alleges, painting Wong and Crawford as middle-men between Pan and the intruders.

Exactly who shot her parents remains unclear, with Pan saying on the stand that she didn't recognize the intruders among her co-accused.

The defence suggested Carty was behind the robbery because he was desperate for money and knew Pan would be an easy target. Court has heard Carty is currently serving a life sentence in a 2009 murder.

Pan, meanwhile, testified she knew nothing about the attack and never wanted her mother to die.

Months earlier, bristling under her parents' strict rules and expectations, Pan tried to have her father killed, she admitted on the stand. But the plan fell through when the man she hired took off with her money, and Pan gave up on the idea, she said.

It was her own death she was trying to arrange, Pan said, saying she had fallen into a deep depression as her family life crumbled. She abandoned that plan, too, when her relationship with her parents appeared to be on the mend in the fall of 2010, she testified.

Calling off her suicide plan meant paying the would-be hit man — a man she knew only as Homeboy — $8,500 in cancellation fees, Pan told the court. She had been collecting the money the day of the attack, she said. Prosecutors allege Homeboy is a nickname for Crawford.

Jurors must also consider whether Pan gave "clear and unequivocal notice" to the others that she no longer wanted to go through with the plot, which would effectively clear her of any responsibility for what happened, the judge said.

Pan initially appeared to be a victim in the home invasion, telling police three men broke into the house and tied her up before shooting her parents.

Her story started to fall apart once it became clear her father would survive, the Crown said. She was arrested Nov. 22, 2010, shortly after he was well enough to speak with investigators.

Wong's lawyer said there is no direct evidence his client played a role in the attack, which happened while Wong was at work.

Crawford was also at work, and in no way involved in planning or carrying out the events of that night, his defence lawyer said.

Mylvaganam has admitted he was at the home to help commit a robbery and that a reasonable person could have known there was a chance the Pans would get hurt. But his lawyer said Mylvaganam didn't shoot anyone, nor did he expect anyone to die.