New Year’s Eve Theft-Turned-Murder Trial Commences with Opening Statements


By Jake Romero

OAKLAND, CA — Opening statements were made Monday at the René C. Davidson Courthouse/Alameda County Superior Court in the jury trial of Byron Reed, Jr., and Kejuan Wiggins.

Reed, 24, and Wiggins, 20, face charges of special circumstance murder and second degree robbery regarding an incident from the morning of New Year’s Eve 2019.

The two men and an associate, Javon Lee, allegedly stole a laptop from a man at a Starbucks in Oakland’s Montclair neighborhood.

The victim, 34-year-old Shuo Zeng, pursued the assailants and climbed into their black BMW. He was ejected from the car at high speed and died of his injuries shortly after.

Deputy District Attorney Charles Bisesto explained this to the jury and told them what types of evidence will be presented during the trial such as surveillance footage, witness testimony and messages the defendants exchanged on Instagram prior to the crime.

DDA Bisesto played brief clips of footage from inside and outside the Starbucks which showed: the getaway car circling the block, Wiggins and Lee approaching the store, Wiggins grabbing the laptop, and Zeng pursuing Wiggins and being ejected from the car.

DDA Bisesto said that Reed was the getaway driver, Lee was the lookout and Wiggins was the robber, noting, “Each man had a role in this plan.”

Police linked the getaway car license plate, the DDA said, to family. Gerald Moriarty, the Oakland Police Department’s lead investigator on the case, will testify in the trial at a later point and elaborate on the investigation.

An on-duty firefighter who witnessed the crime and came to the victim’s aid after the victim was ejected from the car will also testify.

In the defense opening statement, it was said that the witness testimonies are “inaccurate” and that the evidence is largely circumstantial because the video footage does not show all angles of the alleged murder. The defense also made a point about the technicality of the charges.

“The crime was not murder, nor was it intended to be robbery. Quite the opposite. The crime that was committed was theft,” one defense attorney said.

The District Attorney’s Office has charged the defendants with special circumstance murder because Zeng’s death was the result of another crime. If found guilty, Reed and Wiggins may face the death sentence or life imprisonment without the possibility of parole.


About The Author

Jake is a senior at UC Berkeley studying English & Journalism.

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