Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Court Throws Out Chai Vang's Challenge

A state appeals court dismissed a challenge from a Minnesota man sentenced to life in prison for gunning down six deer hunters in northern Wisconsin, saying his complaints are meritless. Chai Soua Vang, 38, argued his trial judge should have suppressed his statements to police and a news reporter, and challenged whether the evidence supported a guilty verdict and whether the judge properly exercised his sentencing powers. The 3rd District Court of Appeals ruled there were no grounds to challenge his conviction. Vang's own attorneys told the court he had no grounds to appeal, but Vang sent eight handwritten documents from prison taking issue with that conclusion. The appeals court still had to review the case. The appeals court found police read Vang his rights when he was arrested and again before questioning began. The court also found no basis to throw out the incriminating statements Vang made to a reporter. Police intercepted letters between Vang and the reporter and recorded the conversation.
Chai Soua Vang
The appeals court said Vang knew his calls were being recorded and spoke to the reporter over his attorneys' objections. As for the evidence, the appeals court said Vang's own testimony at trial established he shot each of the victims and he meant to shoot all but three, asking one of the hunters "You're not dead yet?" A jury could conclude beyond a reasonable doubt he did it. His trial judge considered the appropriate factors when sentencing him, the court concluded. The fatal shootings occurred during the deer hunt in November 2004 after a group of hunters in Sawyer County confronted Vang, 38, of St. Paul, Minn., over trespassing in a tree stand. Vang, a Hmong immigrant, testified during his trial that he shot the six white hunters and wounded two more in self-defense, claiming one of them fired a shot in his direction after they shouted racial epithets and cursed at him. The two survivors testified that Vang had begun walking away from the confrontation when he turned and opened fire. Prosecutors convinced a jury that Vang reacted in an angry outburst, feeling disrespected by the hunters, and then tried to kill everyone so there would be no eyewitnesses. Vang was sentenced to six consecutive life terms plus 165 years in prison.