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Jury chosen for Vang trial

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Chai Soua Vang, left, in a Madison, Wisconsin courtroom Thursday with his attorney Steve Kohn. (Pool photo by John Maniaci, Associated Press)
The jury has been selected to try a St Paul man in the shooting deaths of six Wisconsin deer hunters. Jury selection occurred in Madison Wisconsin. Now the trial moves to Hayward.

Madison, Wis. — It only took a few hours to chose the 14-person jury that will hear the case against Chai Vang. Jury selection was moved to Madison following concerns of pretrial publicity in Sawyer County, where the trial will actually occur.

Vang, 36, faces six counts of homicide and three of attempted homicide. He's accused of shooting to death six hunters and wounding two others in a confrontation following an argument over a private deer stand.

The selection process began with 130 potential jurors. A potential pool of 28 was selected from the larger group. Then attorneys questioned the group and whittled the number down to the 14 who will serve. Two of them will be alternates.

Wisconsin Attorney General Peg Lautenschlager is prosecuting. In court, she warned jurors that some evidence could be upsetting, and wanted to be sure they could still render a fair decision.

"During the course of the trial, you will see photographs. You'll see photos of the victims. You'll see videotape. And the photos and the videos will show the victims -- how they were found," Lautenschlager said.

The selection process began weeks ago with a lengthy questionnaire to more than 300 potential jurors. Nearly two-thirds were eliminated before the others were called to court. Outside the courroom, Lautenschlager said she's happy with the jury chosen.

"Our biggest concern regarding choosing a jury pool was those individuals who may have made up their mind regarding the case beforehand," said Lautenschlager. "And as a result of that, ensuring that anything that they did know about this case could be put aside, and that they judge impartially."

Defense attorney Steven Kohn says he's also happy with the jury. He'd requested a change of venue because of pre-trial publicity, and because of incidents he said had occurred after the shooting in northern Wisconsin.

Kohn said the jury selection was made easier by pulling members from Dane County, and by the prescreening process.

"A lot of work went into selecting this jury prior to us showing up today. We knew an enormous amount of information regarding all of these people based on the jury questionnaires," said Kohn. "Those questionnaires assisted us in weeding out a number of people who had conflicts or concerns as far as being gone -- sequestered -- for two weeks or so. That is one of the reasons, and I think an enormous reason, that you saw a process this morning which was abbreviated."

On the other hand, Kohn says, selecting a jury in Hayward could have taken a long time.

"Had we had to question jurors from Sawyer County, at that time we most likely would have individually had to take each potential juror into chambers to ask some very personal questions, that we would not want them to be influenced in their answers by their concerns that their neighbors, loved ones, etc., would hear what they were saying," said Kohn.

The killings late last year attracted international attention, and two very different versions of what happened emerged.

Chai Vang has told investigators he shot the hunters after they had confronted him, called him racial slurs, and fired a gun in his direction.

One of the hunters who survived says Vang shot the victims in cold blood. Several were shot in the back.

Vang is Hmong, but no members of the jury appear to be of a racial minority. Neither lead attorney would comment on the racial makeup of the jury.

The 10 women and four men will be bused to Hayward. Vang's trial will begin there Saturday morning.