- The Washington Times - Monday, September 5, 2005

HAYWARD, Wis. (AP) — Nearly a year after six deer hunters were fatally shot in a confrontation with a Hmong immigrant, jurors are being selected in a college town 300 miles to the south of this community. Eyewitnesses and friends of the dead men portray the slayings as cold-blooded, but the defendant said he acted in self-defense after the hunters shot at him and used profanity and racial insults.

Jury selection begins Thursday in Madison for the trial of Chai Soua Vang, a 36-year-old St. Paul, Minn., truck driver, National Guard veteran and father of six. He was arrested hours after the Nov. 21 shootings, which occurred during a confrontation on private property in the isolated Sawyer County woods.

Jury selection was moved to Dane County because of concern about pretrial publicity and possible racial animosity. The jurors will be bused to Hayward for testimony.

State Attorney General Peg Lautenschlager is prosecuting the case with two assistant attorneys general.

“It is an important case simply because hunting, particularly in northern Wisconsin, is something which is a significant part of the culture here, and the magnitude of the alleged crime,” she said.

Mr. Vang, who came to the United States in 1980 at age 11, is charged with six counts of first-degree murder and two counts of attempted murder. He faces a mandatory life sentence if convicted.

One of his attorneys, Steve Kohn, declined to say whether Mr. Vang would testify during the trial, which is expected to last up to two weeks.

The Hmong, a Southeast Asian ethnic minority, settled in the United States after fleeing Laos when the communists seized control in 1975 after the end of the Vietnam War. More than 100,000 live in Wisconsin and Minnesota, and some have suggested the confrontation in November grew out of a cultural clash between hunters with different traditions.

Mr. Vang told authorities that the white hunters used racial slurs before hunter Terry Willers fired the first shot as Mr. Vang walked away.

In a letter to a Chicago Tribune reporter from jail, Mr. Vang said he acted to “defend myself and my race.” The shootings occurred “because people are not able to treat others with respect like they want to be treated and hatred toward other people,” Mr. Vang wrote.

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