Shooter guilty again in 2001 St. Paul slaying

  • Article by: ANTHONY LONETREE , Star Tribune
  • Updated: January 23, 2012 - 8:20 PM

Jerry Vang's murder conviction was overturned in 2010 on a procedural error. But a jury convicted him this week.

Jerry Vang, who as a 14-year-old fatally shot another teen in a St. Paul alley in 2001, was found guilty of first-degree murder Monday in Ramsey County District Court.

Vang never denied killing Kao (David) Vang, 15, during a verbal altercation on the East Side block where their two families lived. Jerry Vang, in fact, had pleaded guilty to first-degree murder in the case just months after the Aug. 7, 2001, slaying.

But the Minnesota Supreme Court tossed out that conviction in 2010 on a procedural error, allowing Vang's attorney, Terry Duggins, to argue in a trial that began last week that his client had shot David Vang -- who was no relation -- in self-defense.

The jury got the case about 12:30 p.m. Monday, and returned with its verdict about 6 p.m.

Vang, now 24, also was found guilty of attempted first-degree murder in the shooting of David Vang's younger brother, Kou Vang, who was struck in the forearm. Prosecutors plan to seek consecutive sentences when Jerry Vang appears before District Judge Edward Wilson for sentencing on March 5.

In closing arguments, prosecutor Eric Leonard referred repeatedly to Vang's self-defense claim as a "new story" that the prosecutor said was not backed by eyewitness statements or by Vang's own hourlong videotaped confession to police -- shown in its entirety to jurors last week.

Just before 2 p.m. on Aug. 7, 2001, Jerry Vang, at home getting ready to go to a funeral, learned that David Vang and Kou Vang were out in the alley behind their house in the 900 block of E. Minnehaha Avenue. He grabbed a gun and jumped into the car of a friend, Kor Vang, who was waiting for him. Jerry Vang asked Kor Vang to drive past the two brothers, and then told him to back up. Jerry Vang and Kou Vang exchanged words. Then, Jerry Vang stepped out of the vehicle, uttered an expletive and shot David Vang.

David Vang was struck three times, once in the heart.

Duggins argued that Jerry Vang was protecting himself after having fought with the brothers outside Jerry Vang's house a month earlier. He could not retreat, as required in self-defense cases, because the alley was too narrow, and he was boxed in, his attorney said.

But Leonard said that Vang was the aggressor at all times on Aug. 7, 2001. He got the gun. He ordered Kor Vang to back up and stop. He initiated the back-and-forth with Kou Vang. He did not shoot to defend himself, the prosecutor said, but because he was angry.

On the day of the shooting, Jerry Vang was interviewed by a police investigator, Sgt. Richard Munoz, who tried to get Vang talking by suggesting that the shooting could have been self-defense. Jerry Vang never advanced the theory during the subsequent confession.

When Munoz said that there had to be a reason for the shooting, Vang replied: "There's not a big enough reason."

Anthony Lonetree • 612-875-0041

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