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New Trial Date Set For Viet Student In Slaying Of Professor

February 22, 1985

SANTA ANA, Calif. (AP) _ A Vietnamese refugee whose trial on charges of murdering a pro-Vietnam physics professor ended in a hung jury will be retried March 18, a judge ruled Friday.

The first trial of student Minh Van Lam, 21, accused of slaying Edward Lee Cooperman, 48, in his office at California State University-Fullerton on Oct. 13, ended Tuesday when the jury, after four days of deliberations, announced it was deadlocked.

Defense attorney Alan May and Deputy District Attorney Mel Jensen met briefly Friday with Orange County Superior Court Judge Richard Beacom, who then then set the trial date. He scheduled a hearing on motions March 8.

Lam has admitted shooting Cooperman, but he has insisted that it happened accidentally while the two were playing with a loaded pistol. The prosecution contended that Cooperman’s death was a cold-blooded killing.

After the mistrial was declared, jurors disclosed that they had agreed 12-0 not to convict Lam of first-degree murder and 11-1 to acquit on a charge of manslaughter. But a vote was 7-5 in favor of a second-degree murder conviction.

Cooperman, a staunch foe of U.S. involvement in Vietnam, was one of the first Americans to visit Hanoi after the war in that country. He became a frequent visitor.

His family speculated that Cooperman’s close ties with Communist officials resulted in his assassination by right-wing Vietnamese refugees.

Police ruled out political motives, however, saying they believed the shooting was the result of a personal problem between Lam and Cooperman.

May said that because of the jury’s split vote on second-degree murder, it was unlikely that the judge would dismiss the case. He said he would ask that a jury be prohibited from considering first-degree murder or manslaughter, based on the first jury’s findings.

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