SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — Two men have been found guilty in the home-invasion deaths of a father and his two sons in Sacramento.
The Sacramento County Superior Court jury found 26-year-old David Nguyen and 24-year-old Elijah Johnson guilty of murder and robbery on Friday following more than two weeks of deliberations, The Sacramento Bee reported . They face life in prison at their sentencing hearing, which will be set on Monday.
Prosecutors say Nguyen, a marijuana dealer, planned to steal $30,000 in cash from the home of his partner, Dong Le. He enlisted the help of Johnson and two women, 21-year-old Amanda Tucker and 17-year-old Tayler Coately.
Within minutes of entering the home in 2016, prosecutors say Nguyen fatally shot 32-year-old Le and his 21-year-old brother as they slept in their beds. They say Nguyen shot their father, Thanh Le, three times in the head as he tried to flee, while Le’s mother escaped by hiding behind a car.
Johnson, who prosecutors say was armed but never fired his gun, testified in his defense that there was no plan to hurt anyone and that he was scared for his own life.
“I was terrified that if I tried to help them that I’d be the next victim,” he testified in September. “It was the most belligerent, terrifying thing in my whole life … This family did not deserve this.”
The case took on political significance when Gov. Jerry Brown signed a law in September that would curtail the ability of prosecutors to charge accomplices like Johnson with murder. When the law goes into effect in January, it will mean a person can only be convicted of felony murder if they directly helped in a killing or if they’re “a major participant in the underlying felony and acted with reckless indifference to human life.”
Sacramento County Deputy District Attorney Jeff Hightower said his office doesn’t believe the law would have made a difference in Johnson’s case because of his participation in the crime.
Jamila Land, a community activist who allowed Johnson to live with her when he was a homeless teenager, argued that his lack of criminal record and that he didn’t pull the trigger should have made a difference.
Tucker and Coately are serving seven-year prison sentences in the case after they pleaded guilty to robbery.