Case in point: Chu Vue, a 44-year-old former sheriff's deputy with no prior criminal record, stands accused of arranging the death of a man whose wife he is suspected of having had an affair with. Vue and a series of co-defendants are charged with the shooting death of California correctional officer Steve Lo—but Vue will likely be spared the death penalty.
It is believed that one of Vue's two brothers, Gary Vue or Chong Vue, actually did the deed. The latter gentlemen are still awaiting a murder trial in Minnesota on an unrelated 2001 gang killing in the Twin Cities area.
Chu Vue, along with co-accused Lang Vue (who is no relation to Chu), are accused of personally checking out Lo's home in south Sacramento in the months leading up to the fatal shooting. Prosecutors allege he had arranged to house his two brothers in a property Chu Vue had purchased in Tehama County, while Lang Vue had bought a car allegedly to be used by the brothers to return to Minnesota after the killing.
Murder carries the death penalty in California, but Chief Deputy District Attorney Cindy Besemer said that "based on the facts and the circumstances and all the evidence, we felt the appropriate penalty was life without possibility of parole," she told the Sacramento Bee on November 20.
Ruth Jones, a professor at McGeorge School of Law, said in an interview with the Bee that jurors usually are not shy about convicting a defendant who arranged a murder, but it's a different story when it comes to putting that person to death.
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"But in terms of a juror's perspective on justice, while they may be convinced enough to convict, it's another question of whether or not there will be sufficient evidence, after they convict someone who is not the physical shooter, if they would be willing to impose the death penalty."
Chu Vue's lawyer said the DA's decision announced Friday came as no surprise to him. Lang Vue's attorney, Assistant Public Defender Matthew Scobel, said the decision is "certainly good news by any measure" for his client.