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Vang assembles defense team in hunter shootings case
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Chai Vang has reportedly told authorities that some of the hunters who challenged his use of a tree stand called him derogatory names. (File photo)
Formal charges are expected to be filed against the St. Paul man accused of killing six hunters and wounding two others in Wisconsin. On Sunday in Milwaukee, Chai Vang's defense lawyers talked about their hope for a fair trial in Wisconsin's northwoods. They also brought forward Vang's eldest daughter to talk about her father.

Milwaukee, Wis. — Chai Vang has reportedly told authorities that some of the hunters who challenged his use of a tree stand called him derogatory names. He also says he only began shooting his rifle at the hunters after someone fired a shot near him. The victims' families deny those allegations. One of Vang's Milwaukee lawyers says the upcoming legal case will try to get to the truth about motives.

"This certainly does not seem to be a whodunit. It seems to be a why done it," said attorney Steve Kohn, who has been a criminal defense lawyer for more than 25 years. In another high-profile case he defended the inmate who killed serial killer Jeffery Dahmer and another man in a Wisconsin prison.

Kohn and two other lawyers representing Chai Vang won't say much about their defense strategy. But Kohn says several issues will be explored.

"We are looking into all facets of this case as far as defense is concerned. That includes factual defenses and it includes potential mental health and mental responsibility defenses," he said.

The defense team is also trying to highlight Vang's family ties. At the sunday news conference they brought forward Vang's eldest daughter, Kia Vang. She offered her condolences to the victim's families, and said the shootings came as a shock to her.

"All of our families are facing hardships at this time and we all have questions that need answers. My father, he is a great person and he does take care of his family. He loves his family very much and at this point I really don't know what my father did. I haven't talked to him. I haven't had any kind of contact with him," she said.

Vang's lawyers refused to let Kia Vang answer any questions from the media. Instead another defense lawyer, James Mentkowski, said leaders of the Hmong community are also expressing their regrets to the victims families.

"They would like to express their condolences to the whole hunting community in the state of Wisconsin. The Hmong community recognizes the special place the deer hunt holds in our culture and they recognize these regrettable incidents have to some degree cast a pallor over the entire hunt," Mentkowski said.

The fence-mending with people in northwest Wisconsin also includes praise for officials in Sawyer County, where the shootings took place. Defense attorney Steve Kohn says he expects Vang can get a fair trial in the county.

"Maybe I'm a romantic, but I'm hoping that is the case. It's every defense attorney's nightmare to be sitting in the shoes or standing in the shoes of Atticus Finch from To Kill a Mockingbird, talking to a jury such as he spoke to in that story," Kohn said.

The third defense lawyer in the Vang case is Jonathon Smith. Smith says the question of whether the defense will ask to move the trial or bring in a jury from elsewhere in Wisconsin will depend on the media coverage of the case.

"Obviously the decision is not ours; the decision is the court's, and we have a burden to establish if we think we cannot get a fair trial in Sawyer County. Obviously it's something we'll be collecting information on starting back from the inception of this matter," according to Smith.

Chai Vang is expected to be formally charged today with counts of homicide and attempted homicide.

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