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After an unusual eight-day public hearing, a Santa Clara County grand jury cleared a San Jose police officer in the fatal shooting of a 25-year-old Vietnamese woman that outraged many in the region’s Vietnamese community. Minutes after the decision was announced, the attorney representing the family of victim Cau Bich Thi Tran said the legal battle has just started. The family has already filed an administrative claim with the city alleging excessive force. “There will be more, a lot more, evidence in the civil trial,” said Felicita Ngo, a Sunnyvale attorney. “I don’t think they presented all the background of the police officer. We’ll do that in the civil case,” she said, adding that the transcript in the public hearing would serve as a road map. The 18-member grand jury deliberated for a little more than two hours Thursday before announcing its decision not to indict. “I respect their decision,” said Deputy District Attorney Daniel Nishigaya, who presented the matter to the grand jury. “This is a tragic case for everyone.” Nishigaya said he provided the facts and the law, and allowed the jury to speak for the community. He made no recommendation to jurors Thursday morning, instead providing them with three options by handing out unsigned indictments for murder and manslaughter along with declarations of no indictment. “I am in no better position to render a decision of officer [Chad] Marshall’s criminal liability than you,” Nishigaya told them. But Nishigaya did tell jurors that under California law, the danger posed by the victim didn’t have to be real for the shooting to be self-defense; the officer needed only to believe the threat was real and imminent and that a reasonable person would have agreed. “Detached reflection cannot be demanded in the presence of an uplifted knife,” said Nishigaya, quoting the late Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes in a 1921 U.S. Supreme Court decision. Marshall shot Tran in her kitchen July 13 after responding to a routine call. Police said Tran was wielding a vegetable peeler that looked like a cleaver when Marshall shot her within a minute of entering her home. Amid fierce criticism from the Vietnamese community, District Attorney George Kennedy took the rare step of opening to the public the grand jury’s review of the shooting. He also pulled his second-in-command, Assistant DA Karyn Sinunu, off the case after she made comments supporting the police version of the incident. During his closing, Nishigaya explained that he was required by law to present all exculpatory evidence. He said the victim’s behavior and previous interactions with police could help the jury weigh conflicting witness testimony about the shooting. “The very nature of a self-defense case is you look at the victim’s conduct,” Nishigaya said. According to witnesses, the 98-pound victim had been diagnosed with a mental illness but wasn’t medicated. She had called police six times since 2001, and responding officers testified she had acted irrationally. Vietnamese community leaders questioned the relevance of the testimony, saying Marshall knew nothing of Tran’s history when he shot her. Nishigaya called Chief Assistant DA Paula Kuty to testify that she had examined Marshall’s employment record and found no history of discipline. “It seemed like it was Cau Tran on trial, not Chad Marshall,” said Richard Konda, executive director of the Asian Law Alliance in San Jose. “We didn’t find anything out about his background. It was minimal.” Assistant DA Sinunu said prosecutors presented all the available evidence. “The public got to hear everything,” Sinunu said. Sinunu said Kuty’s review of Marshall’s employment records and testimony is what the law allows. “That’s what we do in all these cases. We swear to tell the truth. In the civil case, they can do the same search and they will come to the same conclusion.”

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