Taeotui Trial Nears Close

The defense of Penifoti Taeotui started presenting its case Wednesday

Monday, Nov 3, 2008  |  Updated 2:19 PM PDT
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Taeotui Trial Nears Close

Slain officer Dan Bessant

The defense of 18-year-old Penifoti Taeotui, one of two men charged in the shooting death of Oceanside Police Officer Dan Bessant, started presenting its case Wednesday. 

Taeotui is an alleged gang member accused of taking part in the fatal shooting of Oceanside police officer Bessant in 2006. Witnesses have testified that Taeotui and his alleged accomplice, Mekhi Gaono, 19, were drunk on the night of Dec. 20, and fired two separate weapons at the officer.  Gaono is accused of firing the shot that killed Bessant.

Unlike the prosecution, which took nearly a month to present its case and called dozens of witnesses, the defense is calling just a handful of witnesses and plans to rest by Thursday afternoon. The defense team will not be asking Taeotui to take the stand.

Closing arguments are set to begin next Tuesday. If convicted, suspects Taeotui and Gaono will face life in prison and not the death penalty, because they were minors when the shooting happened.

While Taeotui did not show any emotion during witness testimony, it's been a very different story for Bessant's father.

"It's an emotional endurance contest," Steve Bessant said. "He was a good husband and in just a couple of months showed himself to be a super father."

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