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O.C. Jury Deadlocks on Penalty for Killer of Hospital Workers

September 04, 2002|MONTE MORIN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

An Orange County jury Tuesday deadlocked on whether a man convicted of killing three people in a hospital shooting rampage should be executed, despite the defendant's dramatic courtroom pleas that he be put to death.

One juror said that after three days of deliberations, 10 members of the panel supported a sentence of life in prison without parole for Dung D. Trinh, while the remaining two backed a death sentence.

Trinh, 46, was convicted on three counts of first-degree murder and one count of attempted murder by the same jury last month after three hours of deliberations. Trinh opened fire at West Anaheim Medical Center on Sept. 14, 1999. Trinh, who blamed the hospital for his mother's death, took the stand last week, pleading with the jury to impose the death sentence. "I dare all of you to send me to death," Trinh said. "I deserve it. I not only deserve it, I need it. I want it."

But juror Dorothy Hoffstatter of Huntington Beach said some on the panel were not swayed by Trinh's comments. "We were not there to please him," Hoffstatter said. "I did not think he deserved the death penalty.... What he did was a coldblooded act, but I don't think he did it coldbloodedly."

Trinh armed himself heavily and entered the medical center bent on avenging the death of his mother, who Trinh believed died because of poor care by hospital employees, prosecutors said. Defense lawyers did not deny that Trinh killed hospital maintenance director Ronald Robertson, 50, nurse's aide Marlene Mustaffa, 60, and pharmacist Vincent Rosetti, 50. But they argued that Trinh was suffering emotional and physical breakdowns at the time.

Trinh's 72-year-old mother, Mot, had died at another hospital the morning of the shootings but had had her hip replaced at West Anaheim earlier.

Deputy Public Defender Sharon Petrosino told jurors Trinh believed West Anaheim Medical Center hastened her death by failing to provide a Vietnamese translator. Because he was distraught over his mother's death Trinh did not act out of evil intent and therefore did not deserve the death penalty, Petrosino said.

Prosecutor Bruce Moore told jurors, however, that Trinh acted in cold blood, choosing his targets deliberately and firing.

The defense and prosecution will meet before Judge John J. Ryan on Sept. 12 to discuss selection of a new jury for the penalty phase.

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