Jury issues Pennsylvania’s first death sentence of 2016

Tam Le was sentenced to death for the slaying of two brothers in 2014.
Philadelphia Police

A jury sentenced a Philadelphia man to death for the killing of two brothers, who were tortured, stabbed and thrown in the Schuylkill River.

Friday’s decision was the first death sentence issued this year in Pennsylvania.

Tam Le, 44, and others associated with the Vietnamese gang, Born to Kill, tortured and repeatedly stabbed the two brothers on Aug. 27, 2014, authorities said. They bound the victims’ bodies with zip ties, wrapped their heads with duct tape and threw their bodies into the Schuylkill, weighing them down with tar buckets.

Brothers Vu “Kevin” Huynh, 31, and Viet Huynh, 28, had allegedly gambled away $100,000 that was supposed to be used to purchase narcotics. Unable to settle their debt, Le held them hostage before mutilating their bodies.

A third victim, Tan Voong, survived the ordeal and later testified against Le.

A Court of Common Pleas panel convicted Le, of Southwest Philly, on Dec. 1 of two counts of first-degree murder, as well as related offenses, according to the Inquirer.

Le will be taken to a state prison for men on death row, where he will remain until his sentence is successfully appealed, or he is executed.

Le was previously convicted of manslaughter in 1993 for fatally shooting a man in upstate New York.

Le joins 174 men and women awaiting execution by lethal injection, state prison officials told the Inquirer. Also facing a possible death sentence are Ibrahim Muhammad and Nalik Scott, now on trial for a triple homicide in 2011 that happened during a robbery.

While a jury can sentence someone to death, execution of inmates won’t happen for some time. The state Supreme Court upheld Gov. Tom Wolf’s moratorium on the death penaltylast December, granting reprieves to inmates on death row.

As of July, Pennsylvania has the fifth-most death row inmates:California has 741, Florida has 396, Texas has 254 and Alabama has 194.

Since 1976, Pennsylvania has executed three death row inmates. None of those cases were from recent years.