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Tuesday, April 27, 2004 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Conviction overturned in slaying of actor

LOS ANGELES — A man convicted of killing the Oscar-winning actor who appeared in the movie "The Killing Fields" has had his conviction overturned by a federal judge.

Tak Sun Tan was convicted of first-degree murder and robbery in the Feb. 25, 1996, death of Haing Ngor, who lived through Cambodia's mass killings in the 1970s under the Khmer Rouge. Tan is serving a 56-year-to-life sentence.

Ngor portrayed a reporter's translator in the 1984 movie "The Killing Fields," for which he won a best-supporting actor Academy Award. He was found shot to death in a carport outside his Los Angeles apartment.

According to court filings revealed yesterday, U.S. District Judge Margaret Morrow approved the recommendation of a federal magistrate judge. The state has not decided whether to appeal.

During Tan's 1998 trial, prosecutors said he and two other members of the Oriental Lazy Boyz gang killed Ngor because he refused to give up a gold locket containing his only photograph of his wife, who died in a camp in Cambodia.

But U.S. Magistrate Patrick Walsh wrote that investigators found a negative of the image in Ngor's house, meaning prosecutors argued facts not in evidence when explaining his willingness to die for the locket.

Copyright © 2004 The Seattle Times Company

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