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SAN JOSE — A Santa Clara County jury deadlocked Wednesday on whether to sentence to death a Los Angeles area gang member for a 1998 San Jose witness-intimidation killing. After deliberating for less than a day, the three-woman, nine-man jury said they’d taken as many as five votes and couldn’t agree on a death sentence for 25-year-old Van Hang Heang, forcing Santa Clara Superior Court Judge Alden Danner to declare a mistrial. The jury forewoman told the judge the final vote was 10-2, but didn’t indicate if the majority was for or against death. In May, the same jury found alleged triggerman Heang and co-defendant Pov Touch guilty of killing 64-year-old Dong Dinh while his son was testifying against Asian Boyz gang members on trial in Los Angeles County. The jury found that the pair had lain in wait, making the two Three Strikes inmates eligible for the death penalty. With no murder weapon and scant physical evidence to make his case, Deputy DA Lane Liroff largely relied on a jailhouse informant and police interviews with other gang members. Judge Danner combined Heang and Touch’s trial during the guilt phase but separated the defendants during the penalty phase. Touch’s penalty phase is expected to begin Tuesday with the same jury. Liroff declined to comment Wednesday. Assistant DA Karyn Sinunu said a decision on whether to retry Heang would be made next week. “I would be shocked if they retried the case,” said Heang’s attorney, Deputy Public Defender John Vaughn. “If he does retry the penalty phase, he has to present most of the guilt phase.” During the guilt phase, Vaughn attacked the credibility of jailhouse informant Ty Pham, who told jurors that Heang and Touch had confessed the crime to him while the three were in an L.A. county jail. During the penalty phase, Vaughn said, “my case was my client’s life.” Vaughn said Heang, a Cambodian immigrant, moved to the United States with his family in 1985 at age 7. “They are Cambodia killing field survivors,” said Vaughn. The family moved to a Van Nuys public housing unit, Valerio Gardens, which is where Heang joined the Asian Boyz. “These were the kids he grew up with,” Vaughn said. “The neighbors became the gang.” Vaughn said he also spent about 15 percent of the penalty phase arguments urging jurors to reject the death penalty if they had lingering doubts about the verdict they reached in May. “You have to be careful,” Vaughn said. “I didn’t want to insult and piss these people off. But in the guilt phase, I knew I was talking to some of them. “Lingering doubt is mitigation, and I think that played.”

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