Han twins murder conspiracy
The Han twins murder conspiracy was a case of attempted murder by Jeen Han (a.k.a. Jeen Young Han or Jeen "Gina" Han) of her identical twin sister, Sunny Han, in November 1996 in Orange County, California.
It quickly became a sensationalized story in the media, bringing back to mind the highly charged media circus of the O.J. Simpson trial a few years earlier. The case brought together several themes including surviving a broken family through a close sisterly bond, a "good" twin sister and an "evil" twin sister who were both extremely beautiful as well as co-valedictorians at their high school, intense sibling rivalry, and a severe envy complex.
The Han twins were born in South Korea in April 1974 but lived apart until they were 3. Their mother, Boo I. Kim, then took them to Orange County, California when they were 12. She worked as a cocktail waitress but also suffered a severe gambling addiction, and would leave the twins alone for days at a time while she went away on gambling trips. The sisters, having nobody else around, developed a strong bond between each other to cope. Unable to take care of them, Kim then sent them to live with an uncle and aunt in 1990, in Campo, a California city near the United States-Mexico border. Both girls did well there and excelled in school, graduating high school as co-valedictorians. They both worked in restaurants for a time, and then Sunny went on to the University of La Verne on a scholarship. Jeen continued working at a restaurant, and then to earn money for college decided to take up US citizenship and then join the US Air Force. The two grew apart and in a year only spoke once or twice by phone.
Stunned by the rigors of boot camp, Jeen then tried to leave under the pretexts that her father was ill, and after that by saying she was a lesbian. The Air Force finally relented, and released her. In the meantime, Sunny, having failing grades for 3 school semesters, had her scholarship revoked, dropped out and began work as a receptionist. Jeen then worked in a casino in Lakeside, California as a blackjack dealer, but after also became a gambling addict and went into heavy debt, and in January, 1996 attempted suicide. To repay her debts, she started to steal her friend's and family's checks and credit cards, and began forgery. She was arrested, and she skipped out on her probation.
Jeen then moved up north to live with Sunny. The two had arguments, and Jeen once stole her car. In a fight Sunny hit Jeen in May 1996, breaking her nose. The police responded to 4 disturbances, and at one of them arrested Sunny on a warrant for credit card theft. Sunny reportedly had stolen a friend's card and then went on a shopping spree, justifying it by saying her friend wouldn't mind because her friend was rich. While Sunny was in jail, Jeen stole Sunny's car, credit cards, ID, and savings. After release Sunny pressed charges and Jeen was then put in jail, with Sunny refusing to help her. Jeen was convicted of a felony and sentenced to 6 months, and then put on a work furlough, but she skipped out on that as well.
For the next 6 months the two only met once and Jeen refused to repay Sunny for her losses. Around October 1996 while going to Orange County from San Diego Jeen told travelling companions that she wanted to hurt or kill Sunny, offering them money and asking how to obtain a gun. After another trip from San Diego and locating Sunny's residence in Irvine, she asked several acquaintances and strangers if they would help her beat up or kill her sister.
Soon after, Jeen recruited two teenagers, John Sayarath, 16, and Archie Bryant, 18 and just before going to Sunny's apartment went to buy large garbage bags, duct tape, twine, gloves, Pine Sol cleaner, and magazines. Finally on November 16, 1996, while Jeen and Sayarath waited in a car out front, Bryant pretended to be selling magazines and then barged in to Sunny's apartment, forcing her roommate Helen Kim to the floor and tied her up. Hearing the noise, Sunny then called the police on her cell phone, and then was found by Bryant, who pointed the gun at her and also tied her up, and then made both women sit in the bathtub. After the police came, Bryant untied the women and was arrested. Jeen and Sayarath, not suspected, then left the scene. Later that day Jeen used Sunny's driver's license to withdraw $5,000, and both were arrested that night in San Diego.
After nearly a year in jail awaiting trial, Jeen Han was tried for conspiracy to commit murder, two counts of burglary, possession of a firearm, and two counts of false imprisonment. The two teenagers were also tried as co-conspirators. Several additional twists occurred, with Sunny appearing to capitalize on the news, going on the talk shows including receiving $10,000 for her story on the TV tabloid show, Hard Copy. Sunny said she believed Jeen never meant to kill her, but in court gave a solid testimony against her. On the first day of trial, Sunny was lucid and well composed. However on the third day, Sunny appeared dishevelled and unable to talk or walk competently. Sunny then revealed that she argued with her mother the night before on the phone, as well as broke up with her boyfriend, then attempted suicide by overdose of several dozen sleeping pills. The trial went on without Sunny present, with Jeen's defense arguing that she never wanted to kill Sunny but only scare her and get her things back. The defense did not call any of the defendants to the witness stand, and the testimony of Sunny was never contested.
The court concluded that the bags, cleaner, and putting Sunny and Helen Kim in the bathtub amounted to prior preparation with conpiracy to murder, and in November 1997 Jeen received a verdict of guilty. Sunny and their mother both asked the court for leniency, but in May 1998 Jeen received the maximum sentence of 26 years to life in prison. Bryant, since he had the gun, was sentenced to 16 years, and Sayarath to 8 years. A forensic psychologist of the defense testified that Jeen had a "personality disorder with mixed traits" that predisposed her to extreme mood swings. Three days after the verdict Jeen again attempted suicide from a stash of pain killers she had in her cell.
An appeal of Jeen's judgment was filed in 2000, but while the court modified it slightly, it rejected nearly all the defense's arguments and let the core of the verdict stand.