Thursday, May 3, 2012 · by Tamara Aparton
San Francisco, CA — A senior citizen whose fishing trip turned into a nightmare after a younger man beat him and urinated into his bait bucket was acting in self-defense when he stabbed his assailant, a jury found Wednesday afternoon.
Pakwai Woo, a 65-year-old retired baker from San Francisco, was found not guilty of one count assault with a deadly weapon. The jury deliberated only an hour before reaching its verdict, said Woo’s attorney, Deputy Public Defender Scott Grant. Woo, who had no criminal record and had never before been in a fight, was arrested Aug. 14 after stabbing 49-year-old Zhi Chen in the back of the knee at Pier 30.
The trouble between the men started a month previously, when Woo sided with another man who was arguing with Chen over who had caught a particular fish. On Aug. 14, they ran into each other at the same fishing spot. Chen, who had been drinking, approached the retiree, unzipped his pants, and began aiming his urine stream into Woo’s bucket of live bait, which was suspended from the pier from a rope, Grant said.
When Woo asked Chen to stop, he testified, Chen responded belligerently, insisting he would urinate wherever he’d like. Then Chen, who outweighs Woo by 50 pounds, punched Woo and pushed him to the ground, an independent witness testified during the three-day trial.
Woo scrambled to his feet and ran a few feet away, where he pulled out his pocket knife and waved it. Chen then pushed past people who were trying to hold him back and kicked Woo in the chest. Woo raised his arm in self-defense, stabbing Chen once in the leg.
Responding police officers arrested Woo without interviewing him, since he speaks only Cantonese, Grant said.
During the trial, Chen’s fishing buddies, who had been drinking on the day of the incident, testified on his behalf but gave wildly inconsistent stories, Grant said. Chen admitted on the stand that he started the fight and witnesses testified to Woo’s gentle nature.
“The only independent witness in the case testified that he saw Mr. Chen coming after Mr. Woo again after beating him,” Grant said. “Mr. Woo just wanted to enjoy a day of fishing when he was attacked without provocation.”
San Francisco Public Defender Jeff Adachi said the case was a clear instance of self-defense.
“They say the truth will set you free, but in this case, it took elbow grease and a gumshoe investigation by a public defender, who was able to show that Mr. Woo acted in self-defense and saved him from an unjust jail sentence,” Adachi said.
The acquittal is the latest in a string of victories for the Public Defender’s Misdemeanor Unit. In January-March, deputy public defenders won 56 percent of their 43 misdemeanor jury trials.