Guilty Verdict in Triple Murder Case

By: Joe Harrington Email
By: Joe Harrington Email

RENO - It took a jury only about an hour and a half to find 20-year-old Samisoni Taukitoku guilty of murdering three people at a Halloween party last year. Taukitoku was found guilty on all counts against him -- three counts of murder and four counts of assault with a deadly weapon.

When the verdict was read, people in the courtroom burst into tears. Friends and family of the victims were present. Derek Jensen, Nathan Viljoen and Charles "Coogan" Kelly were fatally shot at a party in October 2007 after Taukitoku opened fire. Another man involved, Saili Manu, is already awaiting sentencing.

Scott Jensen, Derek's father, said: "I feel the community has spoken tonight and I feel justice has been served."

Anthony Viljoen, Nathan Viljoen's twin brother, said: "(Taukitoku) robbed the community, he robbed the families... there's a lot of suffering going on."

The sentencing of Taukitoku will take place Thursday morning. The jury could deliver a maximum sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole for each of the three murder convictions. Jensen and Viljoen said they are hoping for the maximum. Both men said they will address the defendant.

Taukitoku's family and supporters were also in the courtroom and broke down in tears when the verdict was announced. Laura Lui, attorney for the defendant, said the evidence does not support a first degree murder conviction. She said Taukitoku was also not judged by a jury of his peers.

"Mr. Taukitoku is a minority young man, don't have one minority on the jury, not one," Lui told reporters outside the courthouse.

Lui said it's too early for her to determine if there are grounds for an appeal.

The defense had argued Taukitoku was under attack the night of the shooting. The prosecution denied the victims were threatening Taukitoku.

Deputy Chief District Attorney Dan Greco said he was thrilled with the quick verdict. He said although there was inconsistent witness testimony, including by some who had been drinking the night of the shooting, the evidence won the case.

"What's not inconsistent was the ballistics evidence, and I believe the jury reached their decision based upon the ballistics evidence," he said.

The penalty phase begins at 10 a.m. in Washoe District Court.

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