Signers Led by Widow : Petition Criticizes Lam Prosecutors

Times Staff Writer

The widow of Cal State Fullerton Prof. Edward Lee Cooperman presented a petition Friday to the Orange County district attorney's office, criticizing prosecutors for not pursuing a possible political motive in the physicist's shooting death last October.

Klaaske Cooperman was accompanied by Jack Kent, a Santa Ana physician, who represented a group called Friends of Edward Cooperman. Their petition included 69 signatures.

Opening Statements Monday

Dist. Atty. Cecil Hicks, through a spokeswoman, declined to meet with the group.

Opening statements are scheduled Monday in the second trial of 21-year-old Vietnamese refugee Minh Van Lam, who is charged with second-degree murder in Cooperman's death. Lam's first trial ended in a hung jury last month. No motive was presented to jurors at the first trial.

Cooperman was fatally shot last Oct. 13 at his sixth-floor Science Building office. Lam claims he shot Cooperman with a handgun by accident when the professor grabbed his arm to show him how to aim the weapon.

Mrs. Cooperman and family friends claim Cooperman was the victim of a political assassination because of his close ties with the Communist government in Vietnam. Cooperman ran a foundation that provided scientific and humanitarian aid to Vietnam, and he favored normalization of relations between the United States and Vietnam. Cooperman had told friends about death threats before the shooting.

Chief Deputy Dist. Atty. James Enright, who is the prosecutor in the second Lam trial, said he had no comment. Enright has said previously that he would introduce any evidence about a political motive involving Lam that Cooperman's friends could offer. So far, Enright said, there is none.

The petition presented Friday also asks that the district attorney's office conduct a more vigorous prosecution of Lam. Deputy Dist. Atty. Mel Jensen was accused by Cooperman supporters of being "lackluster" and not hard-hitting enough in his closing arguments in the first trial.

The first jury voted unanimously against first-degree murder. Three jurors voted for Lam's innocence on all charges.

Mrs. Cooperman said she brought the petition to Hicks' office at the urging of friends of her late husband.

"I really don't expect this to do any good," she said.

Mrs. Cooperman said she believed Jensen's superiors restrained him from presenting a political motive at the first trial because "nobody wants a political assassination in their backyard."

The petition states that "complacency" by the district attorney's office in investigating possible links between the Lam case and right-wing Vietnamese groups was "appalling."

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