New trial begins in 2001 killing of St. Paul teen

  • Article by: ANTHONY LONETREE , Star Tribune
  • Updated: January 17, 2012 - 10:58 PM

Defendant pleaded guilty when he was 14 years old, but state Supreme Court later reversed the conviction.

Ten years ago, Jerry Vang, then 14, pleaded guilty to first-degree murder in the 2001 shooting death of a 15-year-old boy in a St. Paul alley.

Within weeks, however, he began pushing for an appeal -- an effort that would end successfully in September 2010 with the Minnesota Supreme Court reversing the convictions and sending the case back to Ramsey County District Court.

On Tuesday, Vang finally found himself before a district judge and jury, standing trial on charges that he fatally shot Kao "David" Vang and wounded Kao Vang's younger brother, Kou Vang, in an East Side alley on Aug. 7, 2001.

His attorney, Terry Duggins, told jurors that Jerry Vang acted in self-defense.

But prosecutor Sarah Cory said Vang "acted out of anger" when he stepped out of a car on a hot afternoon, swore at David Vang and started shooting.

The teens lived on the same block, and had fought and argued before.

Just before he died, David Vang had been with his brother looking at a friend's car in the alley behind the family's house in the 900 block of E. Minnehaha Avenue, Cory said. Jerry Vang lived a vacant lot and a house away, and he knew that the brothers were outside, Cory said.

She said Kor Vang, a friend of Jerry Vang's, arrived in a white Acura Integra to pick him up. Jerry Vang grabbed a 9-millimeter handgun, wrapped it in a T-shirt, and got in the car. The two drove into the alley. Kor Vang passed the group. Then, he backed up.

"You want to start something?" Cory quoted Jerry Vang as saying.

"I don't want any trouble," Kou Vang replied.

Cory said that Jerry Vang got out of the car, David Vang said something to him and Jerry Vang shot him three times. The first shot, she said, pierced his heart, and he died at the scene. Kou Vang, who was shot in the right forearm, survived. Jerry Vang was arrested a short time later.

Duggins said that his client fired because he was afraid. On July 6, 2001, he said, Jerry Vang had been attacked at his home by David and Kou Vang. He said that a steel shovel and a hoe were involved, and that Jerry Vang's father had to take the tools from David Vang.

Because of the beating, and the "stalking" of him later by the Vang brothers, Jerry Vang borrowed a gun for protection, Duggins said.

Presiding over the trial is District Judge Edward Wilson, who also was the judge in November 2001 when Vang waived his right to an adult certification hearing and pleaded guilty in juvenile court to first-degree murder and attempted first-degree murder. Wilson did not rule on the adult certification issue at that time, but he accepted Vang's pleas. On Nov. 26, 2001, he sentenced Vang to a life term.

The Supreme Court later voided the convictions because it said the juvenile court lacked the authority to convict and sentence Vang as an adult.

Anthony Lonetree • 612-875-0041

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