Jury: Gang leader deserves life

The convicted leader of a jewel-thieving gang that killed eight people should be sentenced to life in prison — not death, as prosecutors hoped — a federal jury has determined.

Anh The Duong, the leader of a band of gun-toting thieves who robbed jewelry and electronic stores up and down California, including two heists in Newport Beach and Costa Mesa, will be sentenced Feb. 3 in federal court in San Jose.

Duong was convicted in September of killing four of the eight people who died during the gang's eight-year crime spree.

Because of the racketeering and robbery charges, Duong is eligible for the death penalty. Federal prosecutors concluded their arguments this month on why he should die and turned it over to the jury, who rebuffed their case.

Though he was convicted of killing three people, the jury did not find that he intentionally killed them. Instead, he was convicted of intentionally inflicting serious injuries that resulted in death, a subtle difference.

On Dec. 15 the jury came back with their verdict: Duong should be sentenced to life in prison.

The jury cited a number of events in Duong's life that they felt mitigated his responsibility.

Jurors pointed to Duong's childhood in Vietnam surrounded by war, absent parents, abusive male figures and a constant, early exposure to crime and violence overseas and in Orange County.

When he was 16, he was jumped at a Fountain Valley park for defending his friend. In 1997, he saw a person commit suicide at a Huntington Beach gun range.

The jury also noted that since he's been in prison — Duong was arrested in 2001 and has been in custody ever since — he has shown signs of mental progress.

Five jurors wrote that Duong should receive life because a death sentence could affect his family's view of the government, and eight jurors blamed authorities for not intervening earlier in his life.

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