3 life terms, no parole for killer of 3 in Reno
November 17, 2008
RENO, Nev. (AP) ” A jury decided Friday the man convicted of murdering three young at a Halloween party in Reno last year should be sentenced to three life terms in prison without the possibility of parole.
Samisoni Taukitoku, 20, apologized and asked the jurors for forgiveness before they deliberated for about three hours and returned their sentencing verdict in Washoe County District Court.
“I give my sincere apology to the mothers and fathers who lost their kids and the friends who lost loved ones,” Taukitoku said in a soft voice. “Forgive me for what I’ve done.”
Taukitoku was found guilty on Wednesday on three counts of murder and four counts of assault with a deadly weapon in the deaths of Derek Jensen, 23, a senior at the University of Nevada, Reno; Nate Viljoen, 23, a former UNR student; and Charles “Coogan” Kelly, 21, an acclaimed snowboarder from Truckee.
“I’m glad it’s done,” Scott Jensen, Jensen’s father, told the Reno Gazette-Journal. “There could be no other outcome.”
Judge Patrick Flanagan set the formal sentencing for Jan. 7, but judges rarely deviate from a jury’s recommendation in murder cases.
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Laura Lui, Taukitoku’s lawyer, said they would appeal the guilty verdict and sentence. She had argued before the jury for compassion, saying he is he young, remorseful and redeemable.
“It’s easy to love the lovable,” she told the jurors. “But the test of our humanity is to condemn the act but to love the person. That’s the challenge here. You can condemn the act — you did that in the guilt phase, but can you also have compassion?”
But Chief Deputy District Attorney Dan Greco said punishment, not forgiveness, was in order.
“There are some crimes that are simply so big ” off the charts in seriousness ” that the only sentence that equates with justice is life without the possibility of parole,” Greco said. “Anything less than that would not equal justice for Nate Viljoen, Derek Jensen and Charles ‘Coogan’ Kelly.”