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Vang found guilty on all counts
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Defendant Chai Soua Vang, 36, of St. Paul, turned briefly to the gallery after the guilty verdicts against him were read in court. (AP Photo/Morry Gash, Pool)
Chai Vang has been found guilty of killing six hunters in the woods of northwest Wisconsin last November, as well as the attempted murder of two others. A jury reached the verdict late Friday afternoon. Vang's attorney says the verdicts were not unexpected. But Vang's family thinks an injustice has occurred.

Hayward, Wis. — Chai Vang sat stone-faced, just his eyes looking aside at the jury. One by one, Judge Norman Yackel read each of the jury's verdicts -- six times, guilty of first degree intentional homicide; three times guilty of attempted homicide.

Afterwards, outside the courthouse defense attorney Steven Kohn said he wasn't surprised by the verdict.

"We had no illusions. The facts were incredibly difficult from a defense standpoint," he said.

Kohn said during the trial that Vang faced verbal abuse and racial epithets in his confrontation with the hunters. Vang is a Hmong American. The jury, however, was all Caucasian. Kohn said the jury was drawn from a large pool that included many African Americans, Asians and other minorities.

"Most, if not, all of those individuals -- either because of a conflict, or because of personal feelings, asked to not be on the jury," Kohn said. "They were given the same deference as Caucasians."

Prosecuting attorney Peg Lautenschlager downplayed the racial angle. She says the crime far outweighed any racial conflict between the hunters.

"This was a matter that didn't involve a Hmong hunter. This was not a matter, in my view, that represented Caucasian hunters," Lautenschlager said. "I think this was a matter that involved a hunter who, from my perception, and I think clearly from the jury's perception, was an individual who -- even if remarks were made, his response was grossly disproportionate to what happened to him at the beginning of the event."

Members of the Twin Cities Hmong community maintained a presence in the courtroom throughout the trial. Pofwmweh Yang has known Chai Vang for several years and has hunted with him. Yang was clearly upset, but says he won't shed a tear for his friend.

"Why? I don't believe he's guilty. I know among you guys you know that he's not guilty," said Yang. "But what do we have as for an example in the jury room? All Caucasian; all American. Why can't there be one Hmong, or why can't there be a minority in there?"

Vang's mother made an impassioned speech to the press, in her native tongue. Vang's sister, Chou Vang, says she believes the conviction was based at least on cultural mis-understanding by a Caucasian jury.

"Every single one of them was white. They would not understand. They would never understand what my brother went through out there," said Choua Vang. "I guess my real question is, why didn't they just let him go? Why? Why didn't they just let him go?"

A few members of the victim's families held a brief press conference, to thank local law enforcement and the prosecutors. They said the verdict was just.

"The verdict of guilty will never bring my brother back, but we can start the healing process," said Linda Lavin, the sister of slain hunter Allan Laski.

The convictions carry with them a mandatory life prison term, with no chance of parole. Defense attorney Steven Kohn says it's too early to consider whether he'll appeal the convictions. A sentencing will be scheduled; likely in several weeks.

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