An all-white jury of 10 women and four men will determine the fate of a Southeast Asian immigrant accused of fatally shooting six deer hunters and wounding two others last fall in Wisconsin’s north woods. Race is expected to be an element of the trial.
Testimony in Chai Soua Vang’s murder trial is expected to start Saturday after 12 jurors and two alternates were selected Thursday in less than three hours. The jurors, from Dane County, will be bused nearly 300 miles to the trial in Hayward, Wis.
The jury was drawn from Dane County -- home to the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and one of the state’s more racially diverse areas -- because of defense lawyers’ concerns about pretrial publicity and possible racial animosity toward Vang in northwest Wisconsin.
Thursday’s proceedings started with Judge Norman Yackel denying a request from security officers to have Vang wear a bulletproof vest inside the courthouse, a suggestion his lawyers also opposed.
The 36-year-old courier from St. Paul, Minn., was arrested hours after the Nov. 21 confrontation and shootings on private hunting land. He is charged with six counts of first-degree murder and two counts of attempted murder. Life in prison is the mandatory sentence if he is convicted.
A questionnaire was used to winnow the pool of jurors to about 140. Lawyers then selected the jurors after asking them about pretrial publicity, experiences with hunting and guns, and whether they would be prejudiced against Vang because of his race.
Vang, who is Hmong, an ethnic group from the mountains of Laos, frequently consulted with his attorneys during jury selection.
The two men who survived the shooting have told authorities Vang fired first. He maintains he was shot at first after racist slurs were yelled at him.