by Makisha Singh
The Nan Jo child abduction case resumed on February 25 with both attorneys exploring rather technical information from various witnesses. On this day, all of the audience members in the courtroom wore purple bands of ribbon on their arms as an act of solidarity. Purple is a color used to show support for domestic violence victims and survivors.
Deputy District Attorney Steve Mount first called to the witness stand a special agent for Homeland Security in Sacramento named Agent Kizenco, who focuses on violations of federal law. He explained that Jo had a K1 visa which is for people intending to marry a US citizen. He said it is issued for 90 days after arrival in US and the visa holder needs to get married in that time. Jo entered the US on July 8, 2008, in San Francisco.
She was given admittance for one year, until July of 2009. Jo was detained when she applied for admission into the US in July of 2014 and was arrested in Honolulu because she was listed as a wanted person for abducting the child (whose name was listed differently on a Korean passport), who was on the missing child list. Jo was allowed to enter Honolulu only for the purpose of prosecuting her.
The next witness was a retired investigator from the Yolo County District Attorney’s office, who tracked Jo’s van to Tujunga, CA. From calling the number associated with the address where the car was parked, he learned the resident was a friend of Ms. Jo’s who went to high school with her. All Jo had told the resident was that she wanted to get a green card but the father of her baby (Mr. Charlton) wouldn’t marry her so she was moving back to Korea. The resident claimed to have no contact with Jo while she was in Korea.
Witness Dorothy Pearson, a forensic investigator with the Yolo County DA’s office who has had extensive training in examining devices such as computers and cell phones, was deemed an expert witness by Judge Dave Rosenberg. Pearson can track emails by looking at what mail servers they go through, so she was able to ascertain which emails were sent from Korea and which from the U.S.
Deputy Public Defender Dean Johansson then called witness Susun Kim to the stand. Kim is a Seoul native who attended college and law school in the U.S. and focuses on Asian Pacific Islander legal outreach for immigrant domestic violence survivors. She has never met Jo, and she was deemed an expert witness by the judge.
Ms. Kim said it is rare for Korean immigrant women to report incidents of domestic violence to the police because of a lack of understanding of how the US legal system works or how community policing works, and also out of fear or shame. Kim, approved as an expert witness in the transliteration of Korean names, testified that Jo and Cho, two last names used by Nan Jo, are actually two different spellings of the same Korean name.
DDA Mount then asked Ms. Kim questions regarding power and control relationships in domestic violence situations. Kim testified that the person in control controls whom the other person sees, and they are usually in control of the finances.
Under questioning, the witness agreed that restricting access to a child could be one of the last phases of domestic violence that could be a way to assert control, and she also agreed that a person in power may accuse the other of sexual infidelity, even checking them for sexual odors. But Kim said these are all hypothetical, and simply agreed such events could happen, without stating they are likely to happen.
When Mr. Johansson asked Kim who she thought would be in control in a situation with a 250-pound man and a 90-pound woman, she claimed that weight alone isn’t a signifier of power dynamic.
Lastly, Johansson asked her what she would have advised Ms. Jo to do had she come to her, and Kim said if Jo didn’t have any court orders, Kim would tell her she was free to leave but may face criminal or custody issues in the future. Because this was a hypothetical situation and Jo wasn’t actually given this advice, it seemed unclear whether it was useful as evidence.
The case will resume on February 26 in Department 4 at 9 a.m.