This morning, the California Supreme Court affirmed the conviction and death-penalty sentence for Dallas Cowboys' fanatic Gunner Jay Lindberg, who celebrated what he saw as a 1996 Super Bowl victory by “America's team” with the savage ambush murder of a Vietnamese American he called “a Jap.”
In a 69-page ruling, the justices reviewed and dismissed each of Lindberg's numerous claims that the two special-circumstance findings that put him on San Quentin's State Prison's condemned row were bogus. Instead, the justices concurred with a 1997 Orange County jury's determination that Lindberg had attempted to rob Thien Minh Ly before killing him and that the crime had been racially motivated.
According to the seven-justice panel, “There is substantial evidence” the jury got both findings right.
On Jan. 29, 1996, Ly—a 24-year-old UCLA and Georgetown University scholar who dreamed of being the first Vietnamese American ambassador to his native country—was found dead on the Tustin High School tennis courts. The previous night, after watching the Super Bowl with friends, he'd decided to roller blade alone around 9 p.m. A butcher-knife-wielding Lindberg, 21, and a 17-year-old accomplice trapped Ly, tormented the devout Buddhist, and then executed him. The autopsy report showed Ly had been repeatedly punched, kicked in the face and stomped in the head, as well as stabbed 22 times, mostly in the heart. Overkill was in Lindberg's blood and so he also severed both of his victim's jugular veins. Afterward, the blood-sprayed pair returned to Lindberg's apartment, smoke marijuana, played video games, watched movies, and—no kidding—talked about serving as warriors in a coming intergalactic battle among forces of evil.
Lindberg and Domenic Christopher–both K-Mart employees–were arrested after Lindberg confessed in writing a month later to an out-of-state relative, who notified police. (Christopher received a 25-years-to-life sentence.) During his trial, Lindberg threatened to kill other Vietnamese and mocked Ly's distraught family by wearing a Dallas Cowboys T-shirt in the courtroom.
But in a letter to me last month, Lindberg—who treasured Nazi symbols, ranted against “gooks” and associated with white-supremacist groups before his final arrest—insisted he's “not a monster” and that race and robbery played no role in the killing. He explains away Ly's death as merely a result of his “reckless actions.”
Baloney, said the state's highest court. “Based upon the evidence, the jury reasonably could have found that the defendant harbored an intent to steal Ly's property when he knocked Ly to the ground, demanded to know whether he had a car, and put his knife to his throat. . . . Additional evidence showed the defendant's particular racial animus against Asians.”
An execution date has not been set.
My in-depth July cover story about the case can be found here.
— R. Scott Moxley / OC Weekly
R. Scott Moxley has won Journalist of the Year honors at the Los Angeles Press Club; been named Distinguished Journalist of the Year by the LA Society of Professional Journalists; and hailed by two New York Times Magazine writers for his “herculean job” exposing Southern California law enforcement corruption.