Alice in Chinatown: Chol Soo Lee and His Fight for Freedom

He was a Korean immigrant who was arrested for shooting and killing a Chinatown gang member on a crowded street in San Francisco.  The surreal proceedings that followed would leave him first with a life sentence and then on death row. 

On Friday, November 9, 2018, AABANY’s Trial Reenactment Team performed “Alice in Chinatown: Chol Soo Lee and His Fight for Freedom,” at the NAPABA Convention in Chicago, Illinois.

 Special thanks to David Weinberg of JuryGroup for creating the slide presentation that accompanies the script.


[Direct examination of Steven Morris, an eyewitness, by Leonard Weinglass]

Q. And what, if anything, occurred at that time?
A. I saw figures moving behind me with the sound of footsteps, and at that point I knew something was about to happen that would be quite — I don’t know how to describe it.

MELEYCO: Well, I’d ask this be struck as speculation, your Honor.

JUDGE KARLTON: You knew something was going to happen?

MORRIS: I knew something was going to happen.

WEINGLASS: What did you do?

A. I immediately turned around and pushed Shelly into a doorway of the bakery. At that point, there were three people in the street.
Q. How far was the closest one to you?
A. Approximately twelve feet.
Q. And did you see that person do anything?
A. Yes.
Q. What did you see him do?
A. Fire a pistol, a gun.
Q. What did he look like?
A. Black quilted jacket, black stove-pipe pants, black flat shoes.
Q. Had you seen that person previous to that moment?
A. Yes.
Q. When did you see that person?
A. Alighting from the car in front of us on Kearny.
Q. What happened after he fired the pistol?
A. The bullet struck the man in the middle, and blood started pouring out. And then the two men took off and ran down Pacific Avenue.
Q. Did you talk to the police that day?
A. No.
Q. The following day, what did you do in the morning?
A. Got up, made coffee, went down, bought the paper. I was working in San Francisco. I picked up the Chronicle just to read through it as usual, which I did every morning.
Q. Did you see anything with respect to the shooting in the paper?
A. Yes, an article on the shooting and small photo.
Q. And upon reading that, what did you do, if anything?
A. I started feeling very funny, like I should do something.
Q. Did you talk to anyone?
A. Yes. I called my mother.
Q. How old were you at this time?
A. Twenty.
Q. And did you discuss this with your mother?
A. Yes. I called the police approximately an hour and a half later.
Q. Now, Mr. Morris — how far from you was the person when he actually shot the pistol?
A. Twelve feet.
Q. How long did you look at that person?
A. Thirty to fifty seconds.
Q. And do you have a recollection of what that person looked like?
A. Yes.
Q. I ask you to look at the individual seated immediately to my left in the blue shirt. You’re probably, approximately, fifteen feet from him. Do you know whether this individual is the person who you saw fire the weapon on the corner of Grant and Pacific?
A. He is not.
Q. Are you certain of that?
A. I’m positive.



Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft LLP, New York, NY, May 15, 2019
NAPABA National Convention, Chicago, Illinois, November 9, 2018


Fordham APALSA, New York, NY, May 3, 2023
U.S. Magistrate Judges National Conference, San Diego, MA, March 19, 2023
APALSA, Harvard Law School, Boston, MA, February 2020