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Shooter Was Ill, Jurors Told

July 31, 2002|MONTE MORIN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

The lawyer for a man accused of killing three people during a shooting rampage at an Anaheim hospital told jurors Monday that her client fired the shots but is not a cold-blooded murderer.

Dung D. Trinh was suffering a mental and physical breakdown at the time of the shooting, his attorney said.

The 46-year-old believed that officials at West Anaheim Medical Center had neglected his ailing mother and hastened her death on the morning of the Sept. 14, 1999, shooting, she said.

During opening statements in Orange County Superior Court, Deputy Public Defender Sharon Petrosino sought to convince jurors that Trinh did not act out of evil intent and, consequently, does not deserve to suffer the death penalty.

Trinh's despair was heightened by the fact that the hospital could not offer Vietnamese translators to his 72-year-old mother, Mot, the defense lawyer said.

Trinh's mother had died at another hospital the morning of the shootings, but had her hip replaced at West Anaheim Medical Center months earlier.

Petrosino said it was then that the elderly woman's health began to fail.

Prosecutors said Trinh acted willfully and deliberately, loading up on ammunition and packing two guns before security cameras taped him walking through the hospital and firing at employees.

"He waits for a target he wants to shoot," said Deputy Dist. Atty. Bruce Moore.

"This is not random. There's no argument, no dispute. He opens with gunfire.... He shoots and he keeps on going."

Trinh has been charged with three counts of murder, and with a special-circumstance allegation of multiple murder in the deaths of hospital maintenance director Ronald Robertson, 50; nurse's aide Marlene Mustaffa, 60; and pharmacist Vincent Rosetti, 50.

Two days after the shooting, Orange County Dist. Atty. Tony Rackauckas announced that he planned to seek the death penalty against Trinh--and would against anyone else who goes on a killing rampage.

The defense had sought to remove his office from the case, alleging that Rackauckas had a conflict of interest because he had visited his ill father at the same hospital two days before the shooting.

A judge, however, rejected that request.

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