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Gwinnett man again wants his death penalty case tossed

ATLANTA -- An indigent Gwinnett man facing the death penalty is again asking Georgia's highest court to toss all charges in his murder case because his constitutional right to a speedy trial was violated, officials said Wednesday.

For the second time in as many years, Khan Dinh Phan, formerly of Duluth, has asked the Georgia Supreme Court to dismiss all his charges, which include two counts of murder.

Phan's lawyers, Bruce Harvey and Christopher Adams, point to a "chronically underfunded" Georgia Public Defender Standards Council -- formed in 2005 to assist indigent defendants -- as the reason for the delays.

The attorneys argue the funding shortage has left them without key resources, expert witnesses and the means to interview a witness in Vietnam, in addition to their fees.

They claim Gwinnett Superior Court erred last year -- and in 2009 -- by refusing to dismiss Phan's charges on those grounds and ordering that the attorneys be replaced with public defenders who were more readily available. The trial court's first decision was brought to Supreme Court justices and sent back.

Prosecutors including District Attorney Danny Porter have said the delays were the fault of the defense -- not the state's defender system -- who have filed numerous requests to postpone hearings due to scheduling conflicts. Those conflicts have included a vacation and random meetings, the state argues.

Phan was arrested more than six years ago, and has awaited trial at the Gwinnett County Jail since. He's accused of shooting Hung Thai, 37, and his 2-year-old son, Hugh, execution-style in their Lilburn home in December 2004.

The wife and mother, Hoangoah Ta, was shot in the head and cast into a coma. She awoke seven weeks later and identified Phan as the killer in phone interviews from Vietnam, Gwinnett authorities have said.

Phan reportedly broke in the home and carried out the killings as revenge for a gambling debt. He was married at the time with three children and operated successful nail salons in Lawrenceville and Forsyth County.

Phan's case joins one other pending death penalty case in Gwinnett.

Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty for quadruple-homicide suspect Richard Ringold, 45. He's accused of shooting his victims -- which included his girlfriend and her 11-year-old daughter -- execution-style during a domestic rampage at a Lawrenceville home in 2009.