In Ocean Shores, Washington, Minh Duc Hong was freed after a hung jury in his manslaughter trial. Hong stabbed his harasser, Christopher Kinison, 23 times.
Everyone agrees that Minh Duc Hong stabbed Christopher Kinison 23 times in the early morning hours of July 4, 2000. Nonetheless, Hong's racially-charged manslaughter trial left the jury nearly as divided as the entire town of Ocean Shores, Wash.
Prosecutors decided in January not to re-try Hong after the jury deadlocked 11-1 in favor of acquittal.
Witnesses generally agreed on some details. Hong, his brother and a friend were all visiting from Seattle when they pulled into a Texaco station shortly after 1 a.m. to get a snack. Kinison, drinking beer with a small crowd in the parking lot, waved a Confederate battle flag and yelled racial epithets at them.
Once the three were inside, Kinison banged on the store's window, pointed at them through the glass and repeatedly drew his finger across his throat. Outside, one witness said that she asked Kinison what he was doing.
"It's called racism," was his reported answer.
Hong stole two small paring knives from the store, later testifying that he was frightened. Kinison and his friends screamed at the three and even spit on them as they made their way back to the car.
Kinison then blocked their path when they tried to drive away and punched Hong's brother when they got out of the car. Hong admitted that he did try to stab Kinison, but said he was unsure if his blows had connected.
The case split the town. Some complained that Hong was not being prosecuted for first-degree murder.
Others angrily criticized authorities for trying him at all, noting that Kinison recently had been involved in a series of racist incidents, including allegedly chasing a black man down a beach with a knife.
For their part, officials were defensive about the wealthy town's racial climate and insisted that they had no basis to arrest Kinison in the earlier incidents.