By ROBERT IMRIE, Associated Press Writer Sat Sep 17, 8:25 AM ET
HAYWARD, Wis. - A jury convicted an Asian immigrant of first-degree murder in the shooting deaths of six deer hunters, rejecting his claims that he fired in self-defense after being shot at and taunted by racial slurs.
AP Photo: Chai Soua Vang's sister Chou Vang is consoled by Chai's brother-in-law Chang Vue after talking...
Chai Soua Vang, an ethnic Hmong who came to this country from Southeast Asia more than 20 years ago, faces mandatory life in prison. Wisconsin does not have a death penalty.
Jurors deliberated about three hours before convicting Vang on six counts of first-degree intentional homicide and three counts of attempted homicide. In addition to the six dead, two hunters were wounded in the shootings Nov. 21 that began when the group of hunters confronted Vang for being on private land.
Vang, 36, dressed in a business suit with family members seated behind him, showed no visible emotion as the judge read the verdict.
The slayings occurred during the state's beloved deer hunting season and exposed racial tension between the predominantly white north woods residents and immigrants from the Hmong ethnic group.
Outside court, Vang's sister questioned the jury's makeup.
"Everyone was white," Chou Vang said. "They do not understand. They will never understand what my brother went through out there," she said. "He was not a dog to sit there and let them shoot at him. He was proud of who he is."
Defense lawyer Steven Kohn said the verdict was not a surprise. "We had no illusions. The facts were incredibly difficult from a defense standpoint," he said.
The original jury pool of 450 people included minorities, but most asked not to serve on the jury because of a conflict or personal feelings. "They were given the same deference as the Caucasians," Kohn said.
Attorney General Peg Lautenschlager said in her closing argument that Vang ambushed some of the victims and chased down one of them. But the defense said the confrontation was all about racial prejudice.
Vang, a truck driver from St. Paul, Minn., came to the United States more than 20 years ago from a refugee camp in Thailand.
He said the shootings happened after one of the white hunters used profanities and racial slurs when angrily confronting him for trespassing in a tree stand used to hunt deer last fall.
Two survivors of the shootings testified that only one shot was fired at Vang, and that was after he had already shot the victims.
Cross-examined by Lautenschlager, Vang was asked if each victim deserved to die. Vang answered "no" in some cases and "yes" in others.
He told jurors he was on the rifle team in high school in California and later served in the National Guard, where he was trained to shoot to kill. He also described himself as an experienced hunter.