Man convicted in 2 killings at Haltom City gambling house

Posted Friday, Apr. 26, 2013  comments  Print Reprints

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FORT WORTH -- A 41-year-old Fort Worth man was convicted of two counts of murder Friday in the shooting deaths of three men outside a Haltom City gambling house.

Prosecutors had sought a capital murder conviction for Tuan Nguyen, 41, for killing three people on Oct. 13, 2010.

A Tarrant County jury, which deliberated about eight hours Friday, found Nguyen guilty of murder in the deaths of Binh Lam, 37, and Nhan Tran, 25.

But jurors acquitted Nguyen in the death of Hai Phan, 46.

If jurors had returned a capital murder conviction, Nguyen would have been sentenced automatically to life in prison without parole. Prosecutors chose not to seek the death penalty.

Because he was convicted of a lesser charge, usually there would have been a punishment phase, after which jurors would have recommended a sentence.

But Nguyen's attorneys asked state District Judge George Gallagher to impose sentence. Gallagher sentenced Nguyen to two life sentences to run concurrently. He must serve 30 years before he is eligible for parole, prosecutors said.

According to testimony, several men had been drinking at an Arlington nightclub that night and decided to go to a gambling house in Haltom City in the 2200 block of Ola Lane so Phan could settle a money dispute.

Shooting started after Tuan Nguyen and Lam got into a fight, prosecutor Robert Huseman said.

The man who fired the first shot, Phuc Nguyen, a friend of Tuan Nguyen's, pleaded guilty to engaging in organized crime June 7 and was sentenced to 14 months in state jail, defense attorney John Stickels said.

"That shows you what this case is worth," Stickels said. "It's not worth a capital murder conviction."

Tuan Nguyen acted in self-defense, his attorneys argued.

Phan was shot because Tuan Nguyen believed Phan was going to get a gun, Stickels said during closing arguments Friday.

"Isn't it reasonable to assume that if someone is running to a car during a gunfight that they are going to get a gun?" Stickels said. "He saw Phan reaching for something, and he shot him."

Prosecutor David Hagerman called Tuan Nguyen a loan shark who set up an ambush in front of the house, which was known for gambling in the Vietnamese community. Phuc Nguyen stationed himself to set up a crossfire, Hagerman said.

Tuan Nguyen's claim of self-defense does not match the forensic evidence that was presented during the trial, Hagerman said.

"When does self-defense end?" Hagerman said. "After you chase him down the street, after you put five bullets into him, six bullets into him. So we had the second execution of the night. And what does [Tuan Nguyen] say after all this? 'I'm still angry, so very angry.'"

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