MADISON, Wis. Jury selection for a man accused of killing
six deer hunters in the northern Wisconsin woods started Thursday
with the judge refusing to force the defendant to wear a flak
jacket to court.
Security personnel wanted Chai Soua Vang to wear the bulletproof
vest, but Judge Norman Yackel said Vang's attorneys objected. The
judge said he would take responsibility if something happened to
Vang, 36, a Hmong immigrant from St. Paul, Minn., is charged
with six counts of first-degree murder and two counts of attempted
murder in the Nov. 21 shootings. If convicted, he faces mandatory
life in prison.
Eyewitnesses and friends of the dead hunters have portrayed the
killings as cold-blooded murders by an angry man on a shooting
Vang told investigators he was shot at first and acted in
self-defense after the hunters tormented him with profanity and
racial insults. A National Guard veteran and truck driver, he came
to the United States from a refugee camp in Thailand in 1980 when
he was 11.
The Hmong, a Southeast Asian ethnic minority, settled in the
United States after fleeing Laos when the communists seized control
in 1975 following the end of the Vietnam War. More than 100,000
live in Wisconsin and Minnesota.
The judge granted a defense request to pick a jury from outside
Sawyer County because of publicity about the case and concern of
possible anti-Hmong sentiment. The six hunters killed were white,
as are the two wounded hunters.
The 140 people called for jury duty Thursday were narrowed from
a pool of 450 potential jurors through their answers on a
questionnaire. The jury will be chosen and bused to Hayward, about
300 miles northwest of Madison, to hear testimony in the trial
scheduled to last up to two weeks.
Associated Press Writer Robert Imrie in Wausau also contributed
to this report.