|St. Paul man convicted of stabbing wife 64 times in 2004 wins a new murder trial|
|Written by Bee|
|Friday, 08 April 2011 15:18|
A Ramsey County judge has ordered a new trial for a St. Paul man convicted of murder for stabbing his estranged wife 64 times in 2004.
Judge David Higgs ruled Thursday that the state failed to prove that Moua Her, 29, killed Sheng Vang to keep her from testifying against him in a domestic abuse case.
If prosecutors go forward with another trial, they will be barred from including testimony from a St. Paul police officer. She had responded to an incident four months before the slaying in which Sheng Vang said she'd been beaten by Moua Her outside a University Avenue restaurant.
Prosecutors had argued that there was a pattern of domestic abuse in the relationship, and the jury convicted Moua Her of first-degree domestic abuse murder as well as second-degree murder.
Moua Her had hit and kicked his wife, given her electrical shocks and poured curry juice on her ceremonial wedding clothes, she told friends and relatives.
She called her father for help one day after she and Moua Her had split up. She was at work at Target in downtown Minneapolis, and the bolts on the wheels of her car had been removed, causing the wheels to start to come off.
About a week later, a co-worker allowed Moua Her to enter the office, which was a secured area. His presence frightened his wife, who told him to leave. He refused and had to be led out by another worker.
The 2006 trial included testimony from St. Paul police officer Amy Baumhofer about a beating Sheng Vang said she had received outside a restaurant.
"She was very upset. She was crying; she was shaking; and she had a hard time completing sentences," Baumhofer testified. When she could get the words out, Sheng Vang said Moua Her had pulled her into a car by her hair and hit her with what she thought was a metal nightstick.
Four months later, he stabbed her when she came to his family home on the East Side to pick up some citizenship documents. The 21-year-old woman bled to death with the knife stuck in her back.
Although the state presented evidence of the pattern of abuse, it was merely "a backdrop for the relationship between Ms. Vang and the defendant (and) it did nothing to prove the defendant's state of mind or intent at the time of the July 18, 2004, murder," Higgs wrote in his order.
In other words, the state did not prove that Moua Her killed his wife to prevent her from testifying about the restaurant assault.
Therefore, because defendants have a constitutional right to confront their accusers — or statements passed on by them from others, such as police — the state would not be allowed to introduce Baumhofer's testimony.
Last year, the Minnesota Supreme Court sent the case back to the district court. The Supreme Court ordered that if the state did not prove through an evidentiary hearing that Moua Her killed his wife to prevent her from testifying against him, the district court must reverse the conviction and order a new trial that does not include Sheng Vang's comments to Baumhofer.
Ramsey County attorney's office spokesman Paul Gustafson said the judge's order affects only the conviction on the first-degree murder charge.
"So we can review whether or not we want to appeal the decision of the judge today ... (or) we could go forward and ask the judge to sentence him on the other (second-degree) conviction," Gustafson said.
Defense attorney Nicole Kubista disagreed.
"That's not my reading of it. We might be back in front of Judge Higgs to clarify that," she said.
Kubista also said that the import of the court's opinion is "the Constitution applies to all people regardless of how heinous the accusations are."
Emily Gurnon can be reached at 651-228-5522.