OAKLAND -- A late-night verbal joust between two friends over the existence of God led to an execution-like killing. Now a jury must decide if it was first-degree murder.
Deputy district attorney Allyson Donovan argued the answer is yes, urging the jury of seven men and five women to find Douglas Yim guilty for shooting his friend, Dzuy Duhn Phan, with an AR-15 assault rifle six times, including once in the head from less than a foot away.
Yim's defense attorney asked the jury to think about Yim's emotional and physical condition when the then 31-year-old, after a night of drinking and ingesting marijuana and cocaine, became frustrated with Phan's barrage of verbal assaults and decided to use his gun to scare away his friend.
"This is a tragedy," Mario Andrews, Yim's attorney said. "This is a horrible nightmare situation."
The jury began deliberating in the case Thursday.
Yim killed Phan, 25, in the early morning hours of April 2, 2011, after the pair, and another man, Paul Park, spent the evening drinking, smoking marijuana, snorting cocaine and playing video games.
The atmosphere was mellow inside Yim's house at 3121 Herriott Ave., Park testified, until Yim and Phan began debating the existence of God. Phan, who did not believe in God, began verbally harassing Yim about situations where God did not appear to be helping Yim.
Eventually, Park testified during the trial, Phan asked Yim where God was at when Yim's father collapsed and died of a stroke several years earlier.
The mention of Yim's father sparked outrage, Park testified, and resulted in Yim throwing his video game controller through his flat-screen television. Yim then disconnected from the group and sat on a chair in the dining room, Park said.
Park said Yim sat on the chair for at least five minutes as he and Phan attempted to calm him. At one point, Park said, Phan pushed Yim as if to wake him up and tried to remind Yim that they were friends. Park said he and Phan even offered to give Yim cash for a new television.
Frustrated by not getting a response, Park said Phan finally told Yim that if he was that upset he should just go get his gun.
Yim waited five minutes before he walked 20 feet away into his bedroom, grabbed and loaded his AR-15 rifle, walked back and then began to fire at Phan.
Testimony from a medical examiner and a ballistics expert said the evidence shows that Yim walked toward Phan as he fired the assault rifle and that he fired several shots at Phan as Phan lay on the ground in a fetal position. All six shots fired at Phan hit his body between his waist and his head.
The medical examiner also said that one shot was fired less than a foot from Phan's head. That shot instantly killed Phan as the impact shattered his skull and the bullet rattled through his brain.
"That last shot to the head, from less than a foot away, absolutely shows intent to kill," Donovan said. "It absolutely defeats any claim of self-defense."
Other actions Yim took the night of the killing and in the days that followed also showed that Yim was neither too intoxicated to realize what he was doing or acting under the wrong idea that he was defending himself.
Those actions, Donovan said, included fleeing the scene with the murder weapon, getting rid of the murder weapon, admitting to friends that he "did something horrible" and then trying to get others to change testimony to bolster an imperfect self-defense argument.
Andrews, Yim's attorney, did not tell the jury much in closing arguments other than to ask them to consider his client's emotional and physical conditions.
Andrews said his client was too intoxicated to deliberate murder and said the shooting was a result of Yim believing that Phan had a gun.
Yim testified that he asked Phan to leave his house and when Phan refused, Yim said he grabbed his assault rifle, which he called a pistol, to scare Phan away.