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A Wake County Superior Court jury convicted Robert Piche of second-degree murder Monday in the racially motivated death last summer of a Chinese-American outside a North Raleigh pool hall.

After a weeklong trial, the jury found Piche, 35, guilty in the death of 24-year-old Ming Hai ``Jim' Loo.The murder drew national attention amid a rising tide of racially motivated violence against Asian-Americans.

Loo's friends said Piche and his brother, Lloyd Piche, attacked them July 29, 1989, outside the Cue-N-Spirits pool hall. According to the friends, Lloyd Piche said he didn't like them because they were Vietnamese. Loo's friends are Vietnamese, but he was Chinese.

They said Robert Piche swung the butt of a shotgun, then hit Loo in the head with a pistol. Loo fell forward onto a beer bottle in his hand. The bottle shattered his eye socket, and a fragment of bone entered his brain, which caused his death two days later.

Jim Tso, lawyer for the American Justice Coalition, a Raleigh-based group that organized to monitor the case's progress, said he was pleased with the verdict.

He said the willingness of Loo's friends who witnessed the killing to stay involved in the case was crucial.

``In our opinion, their credibility was the prime reason this case achieved victory,' Tso said. ``We are happy for them because they can now feel that they played a key role in bringing justice to their friend, Jim Loo.'

Tso and Po Chan, chairman of the coalition, said the group will now pursue federal civil rights violation charges against Piche, and his brother, who previously pleaded guilty to charges of disorderly conduct and simple assault in connection with the killing. He received a six-month prison term.

``Chinese and Asian-Americans across America can rejoice at the initial victory,' Tso said, ``but we must maintain our vigilance to make sure that the federal government does its job too.'


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