Judge: Jurors for Vang trial to come from Dane
Hayward, Wis. (AP) — Jurors from 250 miles away will decide the
fate of a St. Paul, Minn., man accused of killing six deer hunters
in the Wisconsin Northwoods last fall, a judge ruled after the
defense argued a fair jury could not be selected locally.
Sawyer County Circuit Judge Norman L. Yackel issued a
one-sentence ruling deciding a jury from Dane County will be
selected for the trial of Chai Soua Vang, 36, a truck driver from
St. Paul who also was deer hunting when the shootings occurred last
Yackel ruled that the trial would be held in Sawyer County,
about 50 miles from Rice Lake, where the victims lived. Jurors will
be bussed in and sequestered during the trial.
Vang’s attorney, Steven Kohn, said it would have been difficult
to find an impartial jury in Sawyer County, considering the
numerous local connections to those killed and the intense media
attention given the case.
Kohn said he also had feared jurors picked from Sawyer County
would have felt pressure to convict Vang regardless of the opinions
they formed from the evidence presented.
“The bottom line is I think the judge wishes to show that not
only is there going to be fairness in the process, there is going
to be the appearance of fairness as well,” Kohn said.
Kohn declined to characterize the decision as a victory for the
defense. He stressed the defense did not specify where it thought
the jury should come from, and Yackel selected Dane County on his
John J. Vander Meer, a spokesman for the Wisconsin Department of
Justice, said it was agency policy not to discuss orders before the
court and declined comment.
Attorney General Peg Lautenschlager, who is prosecuting the case
for the state, had argued that publicity in the case was
informational and had not inflamed or prejudiced Sawyer County
Vang has pleaded not guilty to six counts of first-degree
intentional homicide and three counts of attempted first-degree
homicide in the shootings that developed during a confrontation
over trespassing by Vang in some isolated Sawyer County woods. His
trial is set to start Sept. 12.
Court documents say Vang told investigators and a reporter that
he shot the victims because they called him names, disrespected him
and “shot at me first.” Survivors of the shooting told authorities
Vang fired first.
Vang is a Hmong immigrant who came to the U.S. from a refugee
camp in Thailand in 1980 when he was 11.
Vang’s attorneys have argued that the shooting sparked some
anti-Hmong sentiment in the area.