A U.S. court objected on Tuesday a motion by the family of a Chinese exchange student gunned down in a road rage incident, to abolish a plea agreement that lowered charges against the killer.
The father of Jiang Yue, the 19-year-old victim, insisted the plea agreement offered to Holly Davis who not only killed his daughter but also caused injuries to others including three children, was definitely unjust, Daniel Deng who offers legal assistance to the family said after the hearing at the Superior Court of Arizona in Maricopa County.
Jiang was killed in January 2016 when driving in the city of Tempe, Arizona. She was rear-ended by Davis before the woman got off her vehicle, walked over to Jiang's car and opened fire.
Jiang lost control when trying to drive away and crashed into another car carrying a family of five. Davis fled the scene and was later caught and taken into custody by police.
Prosecutors had sought to charge Davis on 14 criminal counts, including first degree murder. She pleaded not guilty to all the charges at the initial hearing in February 2016, and entered into a plea agreement.
Under the plea agreement, Davis, in her 30s, would face a 25-year sentence and up to 250,000 U.S. dollars in restitution in exchange for pleading guilty to second degree murder and dismissal of all the other charges.
At Tuesday's hearing, Jiang's family made an emotional plea. Jiang's father glared and pointed at Davis, shouting "How inhumane you were to brutally murder my only daughter," according to CBS 5 news channel.
"Please, our honorable judge, no less than first-degree murder and life imprisonment," Jiang's cousin, Katherine Xu, said to the judge, adding: "All we want to do is to protect the whole society and fight for the justice for my cousin."
Judge Warrin Grandville concluded that "having considered the family's comments today, I will not withdraw the acceptance of the plea agreement that was entered in on Feb. 23 and I affirm the sentencing for Friday."
Grandville told the Jiangs on Tuesday that he refused to accept their motion based on two considerations -- one is that the trial will hurt the feelings of the victim's relatives repeatedly, and the other is that the trial which would last for years could cost the authorities so much time and money.
"I don't think this reason is acceptable," Deng said, "social justice should not be valued by dollars."
The Jiangs will consider appeal after Friday's sentencing, Deng said, adding that according to law, Grandville still has the right to refuse the plea agreement before the sentence is announced.
After the hearing, the Jiangs met with Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery who tried to defend the decision to reduce the charges, saying the charges were lowered because the prosecutors did not know the murderer had mental disorder initially.
There was no indication that Jiang had been targeted due to her ethnicity, Montgomery said.
The county attorney's office issued an e-mailed statement to local Phoenix New Times Monday, chalking the Jiangs' outrage up to language barriers and the fact that they're not familiar with the American legal system.
"This resolution has been explained to the family of Ms. Jiang. Differences in criminal justice systems and cultural and language challenges are matters we continue to address as best we can and will not impede our commitment to doing all we can to help Ms. Jiang's family as we head to sentencing in this case," the statement read.
The Phoenix New Times, in its story posted online on Tuesday, rebutted the statement saying "based on the online petition that Jiang's family has been circulating, they understand English -- and the American legal system - just fine."
"The prosecutor, Stephanie Low, submits an UNJUST and UNCONSCIOUSABLE plea agreement of just 25 years for Second Degree Murder," said an online petition signed by about 13,000 people as of Tuesday afternoon.
"WE ask that you bring this INJUSTICE to the forefront in an effort to insure EQUAL justice for all, regardless of their race, color, creed, or religion," it read.