Little Saigon's Huy Trong Tran is sitting in a California prison cell with a document he says proves he was unjustly convicted of two attempted murder charges after a 2007 dispute over the affections of a woman, Michelle Ho.
A 2008 Orange County jury found Tran guilty in the wild shooting case and the following year a judge handed him a sentence that meant the then-27-year-old man will never emerge alive from the punitive custody of the California Department of Corrections & Rehabilitation.
Ho--who had dropped Tran as a boyfriend for Antonio Hernandez and served as a prosecution witness--sent him a 2011 letter admitting that "out of anger" she gave a "false statement" to investigating police before the trial.
"I want to apologize for acting so immature and selfish during that time," Ho allegedly wrote to Tran.
The new evidence interested a federal magistrate, who decided the assertion was not worthy enough to overturn the convictions, in part, because "Ho did not elaborate as to what false statement she purportedly gave to the police," and Tran did not submit a new, sworn affidavit from her.
In a neatly handwritten brief, Tran ridiculed the work of his trial lawyer and also claimed that it was impossible for him to have knowingly tried to commit murder when he fired two shots at Hernandez because he'd been high on methamphetamine at the time. The gunshots, which missed, were acts of self defense, he argued.
(The defendant must not know that California courts don't allow drug and alcohol abuse as a valid excuse for felonious conduct.)
But evidence showed that Tran tailed Hernandez in a 10-minute residential car chase with speeds of up to 60 mph and shot out the vehicle's rear windshield. Later, Tran returned to Ho's residence and fired a second shot at Hernandez, who ducked safely behind a wall.
This month inside the Ronald Reagan Federal Courthouse in Santa Ana, U.S. District Court Judge Andrew J. Guilford declined Tran's request for the appointment of a defense lawyer to assist him, refused to schedule a new evidentiary hearing and dismissed the appeal.
Upshot: Tran, now 30 years old, will continue to serve his life plus 20-year sentence inside the California State Prison in Imperial.