Judge finds probable cause linking Pan to murder of Yale grad student Kevin Jiang
After probable cause hearings earlier this week concluded, a judge ruled that the criminal trial for former MIT researcher Qinxuan Pan can continue.
Courtesy of Thomas Breen
Hours of witness testimony, photographic evidence, police reports and video footage prosecutors presented in court this week culminated with a judge ruling there is probable cause connecting former MIT researcher Qinxuan Pan to the 2021 murder of Kevin Jiang ENV ’22.
In court Monday, five witnesses took the stand to testify, including one person who witnessed the murder while others had interacted with Pan as he fled in an SUV. Prosecutors in Tuesday’s hearing shifted focus towards physical evidence. This included testimony from two state forensic scientists and one New Haven police detective who described the blood stains, gunshot residue and skin tissue found in the SUV, pointing to Pan as the murderer.
At the end of the two-day hearings, State Superior Court Judge Jon Alander LAW ’78 found probable cause for Pan to have committed the crime. Now, prosecutors will try Pan for murder before a jury where Pan must be found guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.
“This should be the result,” Jiang’s father, Mincheng Jiang told the New Haven Independent following the judge’s ruling on Tuesday. “The evidence is clear.”
After Jiang was found shot dead in New Haven’s East Rock neighborhood in February 2021, Pan evaded police for months.
After being named a person of interest in the case, Pan’s evasion triggered a months-long manhunt as he fled with seven cellphones, $19,000 in cash and his father’s passport. Investigators tracked him down in Georgia where he was arrested and charged with murder in May 2021.
During Tuesday’s hearing, Allison Gingell, a state forensic science examiner, testified about finding gunshot residue inside the stolen SUV Pan had been driving. To test for gunshot residue, investigators collected samples from the ceiling of the vehicle, as residue can float up and become lodged in the vehicle’s headliner if a gun was fired, NHPD Detective David Parker explained in his testimony in court.
Gingell also said she detected gunshot residue on a yellow jacket Pan had been seen with. That jacket was found abandoned among bags full of ammunition boxes and a firearm outside a North Haven Arby’s — down the street from a hotel where Pan had checked in the night after the murder.
Steven Bryant, another state forensic science examiner testified that he had found traces of Jiang’s skin tissue in a knit winter hat that was found in the bags outside Arby’s as well. On Monday, North Haven Police Sgt. Jeffrey James Mills had testified that he saw Pan wearing the same hat. The hat also could be seen in Mills’ body camera footage which prosecutors played in court Monday.
In his testimony, New Haven Detective David Parker explained how a license plate-shaped dent in Jiang’s Toyota matched up with the license plate holder on the SUV that Pan drove. Prosecutors pulled up photos of the dent with measurement tape attached to compare it to the SUV’s plate holder.
When investigating the vehicle, Parker also found traces of Jiang’s blood speckled on fuses he found ripped from the SUV and tucked away in a pocket of the vehicle.
Investigators also found traces of blood on the gearshift and a speckle of blood on a mask that was in one of the car’s side door pockets.
In his concluding remarks, Pan’s attorney, Kevin Smith, argued the evidence presented in court was not reliable. Smith claimed that investigators did not thoroughly look for evidence and that witness testimonies from Monday and Tuesday relied on “inferences.”
But State Superior Court Judge Jon Alander LAW ’78 ultimately sided with prosecutors.
“The state has met its burden of proof,” he said.
On Wednesday, Pan’s attorneys requested Pan’s bond be lowered to $2 million from his current $20 million bond, which Judge Gerald Harmon denied.