WAUSAU, Wis. (WSAU) – An appeals court in Wausau will decide today whether a man convicted of killing his estranged wife and her friend in 1996 is eligible to challenge an appeal.
Da Vang filed a petition for a writ of habeas corpus in March 2009, claiming that an appellate judge illegally took part in an appeal even though the judge’s wife had represented one of Vang’s murder victims in a divorce.
Marathon County circuit court Judge Greg Huber denied Vang’s petition because it raised a claim that was previously decided by both the appeals and state Supreme Courts.
At issue is appellate Judge Michael Hoover’s role in Vang’s appeal of a January 2000 circuit court decision denying his motion for post-conviction relief. Hoover ruled the motion was to be considered under one statute versus another, then recused himself before the appeals court upheld the lower court’s decision.
Today’s ruling may only involve two of the three appellate judges. It is unclear whether Hoover, who is the presiding judge, will recuse himself because the case involves him. The ruling will come via a summary disposition – a short order giving the decision and reasons but not analyzing the law.
Depending on the outcome, Vang could ask that the Supreme Court review the appeal.
Vang’s case is one of the more notorious ones in recent history.
An out-of-county jury convicted Vang of shooting his 24-year-old estranged wife, Jia Yang, and her 25-year-old friend, Voua Lo Kiatoukaysi, in the head after dropping off two of the couple’s four children at Yang’s Wausau apartment on January 28, 1996. The now 42-year-old Vang is serving two life prison terms without a chance for parole.
Prosecutors believe Vang killed because he was jealous of his wife and couldn’t deal with their impending divorce.