Image: Lam Luong
Mobile County Sheriff's Office  /  AP
Lam Luong was convicted of murdering four children tossed from an Alabama bridge.
updated 3/20/2009 9:06:17 PM ET 2009-03-21T01:06:17

A jobless shrimper who killed four young children by throwing them off  an 80-foot-high Alabama bridge was sentenced to death by a jury Friday.

The jury deliberated for about an hour before recommending that Lam Luong be executed. He was convicted Thursday of capital murder, which is the only charge in Alabama in which a death sentence is possible.

Circuit Judge Charles Graddick, who presided over the weeklong trial, was not bound by the jury's decision. The court said a sentencing hearing is scheduled for April 30.

Luong's defense urged the jury to be merciful on the 38-year-old Vietnamese refugee, contending he had a mental breakdown and snapped before the killings. But prosecutors said Luong deserved to be executed for dropping the children — ages 3 years to 4 months — from the top of the bridge after arguing with his common-law wife, Kieu Phan, 23.

Luong fathered three of the victims — Hannah Luong, 2; Lindsey Luong, 1; and Danny Luong, 4 months — and one, Ryan Phan, 3, was Phan's child with another man.

Luong, who once entered a guilty plea but later retracted it, did not testify at the trial or during Friday's sentencing phase.

But a psychiatrist for the defense described Luong, who emigrated from Vietnam when he was 14, as having a major depression disorder and that drug use exacerbated his condition. He said Luong reached a critical point when he had no job or money.

Prosecutors had presented Phan family members who shared memories of the children.

Jurors also watched video of sandbags being dropped from atop the Dauphin Island Bridge, where the children were killed on Jan. 7, 2008. A detective said it took only three seconds before the tiny bodies hit the water at 25 mph.

The children's' mother testified that Luong had a girlfriend, abused drugs and didn't find a job when the family returned to the Bayou La Batre area after temporarily relocating to Georgia after Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf coast in 2005.

She also said he laughed when he told her that the kids — while still reported missing — would never be found.

At a pre-trial hearing, Luong gave the judge a letter in which he entered a guilty plea and said he wanted to die, but he later withdrew the plea.

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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