At Lee's June 1988 trial, which took place before the confession, his attorney was barred from presenting evidence to the effect that Lee had been mistaken for Kwa Jai.
The evidence included:
* A statement given to police by an informant in New York in 1985 naming Kwa Jai and two others, neither of whom was Lee, as the three men who participated in the Ho Sai Gai crime. Police relied on the accuracy of the informant's statement in identifying the two other defendants in the case.
* An assertion by Kwa Jai's brother that Kwa Jai, who was shot to death in 1984, told him the day after Jade Wong's murder that he was involved in the crime with two others, neither of whom was Lee.
The new information concerning Kwa Jai surfaced after Chang T. "Benson" Luong, 25, who had been a fugitive for more than five years, was arrested in April and charged as the last of the three involved in the Jade Wong murder.
Luong gave a statement to Philadelphia police on April 20 in which he admitted that he was with the men who held up Ho Sai Gai and shot Jade Wong. One of the other men, he said, was Cam Ly, 28, of New York, who was convicted last year as the man who pulled the trigger.
The other, Luong said, was Kwa Jai.
Officials in the District Attorney's Office said that, even in light of the new information, they saw no reason to doubt Lee's guilt.
Asked whether she was concerned that Lee might be the wrong man, Arlene Fisk, the prosecutor in Lee's case, gave a one-word answer: "No."
Asked why, Fisk replied: "The jury said he was the right man."
Lee was convicted on the testimony of an eyewitness, Janice Wong, the sister of the victim. Janice Wong, who was in Ho Sai Gai at the time of the murder, identified Lee from police photographs three weeks after the crime. And she identified him again from the witness stand at his trial.
A second witness, a waiter in the restaurant, also picked Lee's pictures
from a police photo spread in 1983, but he was unable to identify him at trial.
Lee's attorney, Peter C. Bowers, contended that the witnesses had mistaken Allen Lee, a member of a gang called the Flying Dragons in New York's Chinatown, for Kwa Jai, who was also in the gang.
Both Lee and Kwa Jai were young hoods. At the time of the Jade Wong murder, Lee already was facing charges in New York for extorting money from a restaurant owner there. He was convicted of that crime and must complete a prison sentence in New York state for it before beginning a life term in Pennsylvania.
Kwa Jai had no criminal record, but New York police viewed him as a suspect in illegal gang activities. Kwa Jai means "bad boy." Five months after the crime at the restaurant in Philadelphia, Kwa Jai, at 19, was shot to death in an unsolved assassination in a Manhattan restaurant.
The record of Allen Lee's trial shows that Lee and Kwa Jai bore enough of a resemblance to each other that even Janice Wong, the star prosecution witness, once misidentified a photograph of Kwa Jai, saying it was Lee.
Common Pleas Court Judge Albert F. Sabo barred other evidence that might have bolstered Lee's claim that Kwa Jai, instead of Lee, was involved in the crime.
Bowers said last week that he intended to seek a new trial based on the emergence of Benson Luong as a potential defense witness for Lee, 26.
It was about 4:30 a.m. on Aug. 14, 1983, when three young Asian men walked into Ho Sai Gai at 10th and Race Streets and began making trouble.
Though it was after hours, they demanded beer. They ordered food, but complained when it arrived and sent it back. They refused to pay their bill. When other patrons had left, they declared themselves members of a New York gang and demanded "lucky money" - extortion payments - from Jade Wong, the restaurant manager.
Wong, 25, who was working in the restaurant while on summer break from graduate studies at Penn State University, tried to call police. One of the hoods shot her in the head.
In the days and weeks after the murder, Philadelphia police obtained hundreds of photographs of Asian gang members from New York police. They showed them to Janice Wong and Phong Ngo, a waiter, both of whom had been in the restaurant and had had ample opportunity to observe the three men before the shooting. Initially, neither witness recognized anyone.
About three weeks after the crime, an informant told police that one of the perpetrators was nicknamed Aaron or Allen. Philadelphia police asked their counterparts in New York for photos of someone by that name, and they were given pictures of Allen Lee.
Lee's photos were shown to Janice Wong and Phong Ngo as part of a photo spread. Both picked Lee as one of the three men involved in the crime. Within a week, Lee was arrested on a street in New York's Chinatown.
According to Lee's New York attorney, Martin R. Stolar, Lee insisted from the beginning that he was not involved in the Jade Wong murder. He said he was at home in New York when the crime occurred. But his only alibi witnesses were members of his family.
Stolar said in an interview that he was convinced that Lee was telling the truth, partially because Lee had been candid with him in discussing other illegal things he had done and partially because Lee knew who had been involved in the Ho Sai Gai crime. The name he gave, Stolar said, was Kwa Jai.
Stolar undertook a two-year legal fight to block Lee's extradition to Pennsylvania.
During that time, there were no other arrests in the Jade Wong case.
Then an informant named Wing Tsang came forward in New York with information about the Ho Sai Gai case.
Philadelphia police interviewed Tsang on Aug. 6, 1985, in New York and took a statement from him.
Tsang said three men were involved in the crime. The names he gave were Cam Ly, Benson Luong and Kwa Jai. Tsang told police his information came from Cam Ly himself, who had described the crime to him, told him he shot Jade Wong and named Benson Luong and Kwa Jai as having been with him. Tsang identified photographs of all three men. He also passed a polygraph test.
On Aug. 8, 1985, two days after they took the Tsang statement, Philadelphia police showed a series of photos to Janice Wong.
She identified Cam Ly immediately as the man who shot her sister. On that basis, Cam Ly was arrested.
She also was shown a photograph of Kwa Jai. She said he was the same man she had previously picked out from other photographs - Allen Lee.
Three years later, when she testified at Lee's trial, Janice Wong said she was certain, despite the mistake in 1985, that Lee was the man who had been in the restaurant.
Before Lee's extradition to Philadelphia in December 1985, a New York police detective named Joseph Fasano developed doubts about whether Lee was involved in the Ho Sai Gai case.
Fasano was a member of the New York Police Department's "Jade Squad," which specializes in the investigation of Asian youth gangs. It was the Jade Squad that assisted Philadelphia police in the Ho Sai Gai case.
Fasano, in an interview with The Inquirer, said that after Lee's arrest, leaders of the Flying Dragons told him that Lee had nothing to do with the crime.
"I didn't believe them at the outset," Fasano said. "When they gave me this information, I just passed it along as is to Philadelphia. I said, 'Look, we're hearing this story from the street that Allen Lee is not involved.' "
Two years later, when Wing Tsang named Cam Ly, Benson Luong and Kwa Jai as the men involved in the crime, Fasano said, he became convinced that Lee was indeed the wrong man. The reason, Fasano said, was that Tsang had "no ulterior motive" to lie in behalf of Lee. Tsang was facing a serious drug charge in New York. He was trying to barter his way out of trouble. On that basis, Fasano said, it would have done him no good to hold out bogus information to police.
Fasano is now a private detective. He assisted Lee's attorney, Bowers, in the preparation of his trial defense.
"I believe the kid is innocent," Fasano said. "I could be wrong. I'm not God. But there is so much pointing his way."
Fasano was barred from testifying at Lee's trial about his effort to tell Philadelphia police that Kwa Jai, instead of Lee, may have been involved in the crime. Sabo ruled that anything Fasano told Philadelphia police was inadmissible hearsay. The judge declared: "I don't care what one detective tells another."
Sabo also refused to allow testimony about the fact that Wing Tsang named Kwa Jai rather than Lee as a participant in the crime. He said that too was hearsay.
During the trial, Bowers attempted to call Kwa Jai's brother, Kin Leung Wong, as a witness for the defense.
Speaking to Sabo out of the jury's hearing, Bowers said Kin Leung Wong would testify that Kwa Jai, not Lee, had been involved in the Ho Sai Gai crime.
Sabo refused to permit that testimony on the ground that it, too, would be hearsay - a repetition of things Kin Leung Wong's brother allegedly had told him.
"Anybody could say anything," Sabo declared. ". . . I am not going to let you go into a lot of hearsay nonsense."
Kin Leung Wong is serving a sentence at a state prison in Coxsackie, N.Y., for a weapons violation. In an interview at the prison, he said his brother, Kwa Jai, was a participant in the Ho Sai Gai holdup and murder. He said Lee, whom he knows and considers a friend, was not involved.
Kin Leung Wong said Kwa Jai left New York by car with several others on the night of the crime, saying he was going to Philadelphia.
Back in New York the next day, he said, Kwa Jai told him of the shooting in the restaurant, described details to him and said he needed to get away
because police might come looking for him.
Kin Leung Wong said he and Kwa Jai fled to Atlanta, where they stayed for several months before returning to New York. Shortly after their return, in January 1984, Kwa Jai was killed.
Fisk, the prosecutor, noted at Lee's trial that it was convenient for the defense that Kwa Jai was dead.
"If you are going to accuse somebody else," Fisk observed, "it is best to accuse somebody that's dead."
Fisk's case hung on the identification of Lee by eyewitnesses.
The waiter, Phong Ngo, who had identified two photographs of Lee, testified that when he looked at them in 1983, "I was very certain, very, very certain."
But seeing Lee sitting before him in the courtroom five years after the crime, Ngo said, "Now I can't recall."
Janice Wong testified that when she saw Lee's pictures in 1983, she, too, was certain. "I knew it was him," she said. "I remembered his face. I knew right away it was him."
She acknowledged on the witness stand that she had misidentified a photo of Kwa Jai, saying it was Allen Lee, in 1985. But she said that was a mistake born of a wrong assumption. When police showed her the photo, she said, she thought they simply were giving her an "updated" picture of Lee.
In the courtroom, Wong said she was sure Lee was the right man. Pointing at him, she testified, "It's him, right over there. . . . I mean if the person is right there, he is right there."
After four hours of deliberation, the jury convicted Lee of second-degree murder, robbery, criminal conspiracy and possession of a weapon. Sabo immediately sentenced him to life in prison.
Bowers appealed the verdict on the ground that Lee was denied a fair trial
because he was prevented from fully developing his claim that Kwa Jai committed the crime. The District Attorney's Office countered that Lee was properly convicted on eyewitness testimony, and that his claims concerning Kwa Jai were inadmissible. That appeal is pending before the state Superior Court.
It was 10 months after Lee's conviction that the third suspect, Benson Luong, was arrested and gave a statement that once again invoked the name of Kwa Jai.
Luong, according to his April 20 statement, told police that he had known Kwa Jai, whom he described as a "gangster," since 1981 when they were in high school together in New York.
On the night of the crime, Luong said, "I was at home in New York City, and Kwa Jai came to my apartment in a van with other men. He called me downstairs and told me to get into the van."
Luong said there were six men in the van, including himself. He said they drove to Atlantic City and dropped off two of the men at a casino. The remaining four then drove to Philadelphia and went to Ho Sai Gai. The fourth man, who lived in Philadelphia, left soon after they sat down inside the restaurant. Luong said he started to leave also, but Kwa Jai told him to stay. Besides Kwa Jai, he said, the other man who remained with them was Cam Ly. He said they ordered food. They waited for the other customers to leave. Then Kwa Jai demanded money from the restaurant manager. When she refused, he and Cam Ly pulled guns. Kwa Jai and Cam Ly herded restaurant employees into the kitchen. Kwa Jai ordered Luong to get money from the cash register. Then, Luong said, he heard a shot. He looked into the kitchen.
"When I got there I seen her on the floor with the phone," Luong said. ''I got scared and ran away."
Police showed Luong photographs of Kwa Jai and Cam Ly. He identified them. Nowhere did he mention Allen Lee.
Luong's attorney, William T. Cannon, has argued in court that Luong was an unwilling participant in the crime, forced to be there by Kwa Jai.
At the request of The Inquirer, Cannon showed Luong photographs of Allen Lee, Kwa Jai and Cam Ly last week at Holmesburg Prison, where he is awaiting trial.
Cannon said Luong was unable to identify photographs of Allen Lee or Cam Ly. On seeing photos of Kwa Jai, Cannon said, Luong identified him ''positively and immediately as the man who was with him" inside Ho Sai Gai.