State Appeals Court reverses conviction of Sacramento microwave murder mother in 'excruciatingly tragic case'

The conviction of Ms. Ka Yang (left) in the death of her infant daughter Mirabelle was
reserved on appeal. |  



As reported in a broadcast yesterday on the YouTube channel Hmong Life,  a California State Appeals Court has reversed the conviction of a Sacramento woman in the first-degree murder of her seven-month-old baby who died in a microwave oven. The appellate decision was entered on July 28 in California's Court of Appeals Third District in Sacramento. 

The mother, Ka Yang, was convicted in November 2015 in Sacramento Superior Court and sentenced the next month to 26 years to life for the murder of her daughter Mirabelle Thao-Lo. The infant died after her mother placed her in a microwave oven and operated it during an epileptic seizure on March 17, 2011.

Ms. Yang was arrested three months later when an autopsy showed the infant died of microwave burns.  The cause of the infant's death was never disputed during the trial.

The published decision from Acting Presiding Justice Elana Duarte of the Third District Court began the ruling by stating, "This is an excruciatingly tragic case." 

Notwithstanding her epilepsy, prosecution witness, Mirabelle's pediatrician Dr. Angela Vicker testified the death was because of Ms. Yang's postpartum depression. However, Ms. Yang was never diagnosed with the condition.

"We conclude the trial court abused its discretion by allowing expert testimony regarding postpartum mental disorders without sufficient factual basis and by subsequently admitting into evidence defendant’s psychological records not directly related to any mental condition she had put at issue. Because we cannot conclude these 3 errors were harmless when considered together, we reverse the judgment in its entirety."

According to Ms. Que Ku, host of the Hmong Life YouTube broadcast announcing the reversal, Yang is still in custody awaiting return to the Sacramento County Jail for a possible new trial. The Sacramento County District Attorney's Office did not respond to our request seeking information on the case's disposition. 

In Ms. Ku's broadcast, Ms. Yang's brother Kao Yang (see entire interview below) described his sister as a very caring person and that she started experiencing seizures while in middle school, and following the seizures, she was always disoriented. 

"When she gets up, she doesn't know where she is," he said. 

Mr. Yang said as his sister entered adulthood, she attended college, met her husband, got married, and started a family. Once she had children, before he married and started a family, Mr. Yang lived with his sister and family to help her with the children if she experienced seizures.

A witness during the trial, Mr. Yang, whose family is of Hmong descent, said pre-trial the prosecutor asked him about Hmong Shaman rituals which sacrifice animals for feasts.

"They asked if we sacrifice humans, you know people, " Mr. Yang said. "That is the thing that the D.A. asked me before we went to the stand. I told him we don't."

When called as a witness, Mr. Yang said the prosecutor "asked me the same question." Mr. Yang, a practicing Shamam, said he thought that line of questioning was possibly meant to imply they sacrifice humans to prejudice the jury. 

During the Sacramento Superior Court jury trial, Yang was represented by renowned criminal defense attorney Linda Parisi. Judge Steven W. White was the judge, and attorney Scott Concklin argued the appeal. 

The case is People v. Yang, C080978.
  


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