Crowds Pack Courtroom For Closing in Bessant Trial

Jurors could get the case before end of the week

Family, police and members of the public filled the courtroom in Vista to hear the closing arguments in the trial of Penifoti Taeotui.  He is accused of murder in the killing of Oceanside Police Officer Dan Bessant.

Extra chairs were brought into the courtroom to accommodate police and family of the defendant and the family of Officer Bessant.  Others waited outside to take any seats that would become available.

Deputy District Attorney Tom Manning began his arguments talking about the defendant's gang affiliations and gang culture.  In his closing statement, the prosecutor explained the first count of murder.  Manning said that even though the defendant did not fire the bullet that killed Officer Bessant, his alleged support of the shooting and alleged firing of a .22 caliber pistol in the officer's direction qualified him for first degree murder.

Manning also revisited the details of how Officer Bessant was killed.  He also replayed the recordings of police communications of that evening on December 20, 2006 when Officer Karina Pina yelled "Officer down! Officer down!"   Officer Bessant was backing up Officer Pina in a routine traffic stop on the night he was killed.  Members of Bessants family had to leave the courtroom in tears as the events of that evening were revisited.

But the closing arguments mean the trial is soon coming to an end, which is a surprise for many. 

"We thought this trial was going to go on for about eight weeks, and now we're only at about five," said Lt. Mike Goldsmith, head of investigations at the Oceanside Police Department.  He and others had anticipated a more lengthy case from defense attorney.  "We're kind of thinking because he called so few witnesses and his timeline on the stand was so short, he may have a powerful closing or may have something we're not expecting in his closing (statement)," he said.

Defense Attorney Will Rumble will have a chance for rebuttal and to make a closing argument. 

Judge Runston Maino told jurors that they should plan to begin deliberation on Thursday.

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