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Contempt Proceedings Against Juror to Be Dropped by Judge

July 22, 1986|JERRY HICKS | Times Staff Writer

A Superior Court judge decided on Monday to drop contempt-of-court proceedings against a juror whose private investigation at the scene of a shooting led to a mistrial on July 11.

The trial involved the March 18 shooting of Tran Khanh Van, a former Saigon housing official, outside his office in Westminster. Be Tu Van Tran of Costa Mesa was charged with attempted murder.

But Superior Court Judge Jean Rheinheimer declared a mistrial after the jury foreman told her that juror Charles T. Dalton of Costa Mesa had tried to get jurors to view the results of his own investigation of the scene. Dalton apparently was testing a defense theory that another car seen speeding a few blocks from the shooting scene could have been involved. The judge had instructed the jurors not to conduct their own investigations.

Dalton now will be found in contempt only if any of the attorneys in the case decide to pursue the matter. Alan M. May, attorney for Tran, said that may not happen.

"The public embarrassment the juror has gone through is probably punishment enough," May said.

May called Dalton's conduct "highly improper and distasteful" but said it appeared that the case would have ended in a mistrial anyway because of a hung jury.

Rheinheimer also on Monday set Sept. 10 as the date for a new trial and lowered bail for Tran from $50,000 to $25,000. May said Tran is expected to be released from custody today.

Tran, of Santa Ana, told police he shot Van because of published comments attributed to Van that the United States should normalize relations with Vietnam. And Van, who is recovering from his wounds, identified Tran at the trial as his attacker.

But May contended to the jurors that his client is lying, either to protect someone or to be a political martyr.

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