Pierre Haobsh | Credit: Courtesy

The death-penalty murder trial for Pierre Haobsh —accused of killing noted Santa Barbara herbalist and acupuncturist Dr. Weidong “Henry” Han, 57; his wife, Huijie “Jennie” Yu, 29; and their 5-year-old daughter, Emily, in their home four years ago — has been assigned a last-day-for-trial date: June 10, 2021. Attorneys for the defense and prosecution will meet again in Judge Brian Hill’s courtroom on January 13 to discuss when to set an actual trial date.

Haobsh is accused of killing Han in hopes of draining the $20 million he mistakenly believed was in Han’s bank accounts. Haobsh worked closely with Han over the years as a research assistant in a couple of side ventures, one involving the curative powers of cannabis and another that would combine the restorative powers of stem cells in new skin creams. He reportedly believed Han was far wealthier than he in fact was.

Because of the degree of premeditation alleged to have been involved — and the eight bullets shot into the head of Han’s daughter — District Attorney Joyce Dudley filed death penalty charges against Haobsh, the first and only time she has done so.

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Shortly after Dudley’s filing, Governor Gavin Newsom announced no executions would take place on his watch. Complicating the death penalty filing even more are the onerous logistical challenges triggered by the outbreak of COVID-19. Death penalty cases are notoriously demanding even under the best of times. But since the pandemic first broke out, only four jury trials have taken place throughout Santa Barbara County. Another six have been given last-day dates, and many more are on deck. In this context, any death penalty case will impose a significant drain upon the court’s already strained resources. 

Last week, Judge Hill announced that jury questionnaires would be sent out to no fewer than 2,000 prospective jurors for the case. During court deliberations prior to the outbreak of COVID, it had been estimated that the Haobsh trial — really two, one for guilt and the other for punishment — could take as long as 12 months.

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