Man convicted in Coogan murder trial
November 13, 2008
RENO, Nev. ” A Reno jury was to return to a courtroom Thursday to consider punishment for 20-year-old Samisoni Taukitoku, convicted of killing three young men at Halloween party.
It took jurors less than two hours Wednesday to convict Taukitoku of three counts of murder and four counts of assault with a deadly weapon for threatening others with a gun.
The off-campus party on Oct. 28, 2007 was attended by many current and former University of Nevada, Reno students.
Killed were 23-year-olds Derek Jensen and Nathan Vilgoen and 21-year-old Charles “Coogan” Kelly, an acclaimed snowboarder from Truckee, Calif.
During closing arguments, Chief Deputy District Attorney Dan Greco described Taukitoku as a “fired up” young man armed with a gun who wanted to show everyone at the Halloween party that he was the “alpha male.”
Greco said Taukitoku fired at least 10 shots.
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“These young men, because of the locations of the shots, were trying to get away,” Greco said of the victims.
“None had a gun. None had a knife. They were not threatening him. They were unlucky to be standing in the wrong place at the wrong time,” he said.
Defense lawyer Laura Lui said her client acted in self defense.
“If anything, what you heard from credible evidence is that my client was hit with a shovel and, according to him, was taken to his knees,” Lui said in her closing argument. “He’s being pummeled. There are injuries he discussed with law enforcement.
“That does not show anything other than self-defense.”
Another defendant, Saili Manu, earlier pleaded guilty to assault charges. His sentencing is set for Dec. 12.