Two California men are facing significant prison time after they were convicted Friday of killing three people in a 2016 home invasion, the Sacramento Bee reports.
After two weeks of deliberations, jurors found David Nguyen, 26, and Elijah Johnson, 24, guilty of robbery and murder.
Authorities alleged that Nguyen was a drug dealer who intended to steal $30,000 from his partner, Dong Le, 32. As part of this plan, Nguyen sought help from Johnson and two females.
Soon after they entered the house, Nguyen shot Le and his brother as they slept, and then proceeded to shoot their father three times in the head while he attempted to flee. Their mother narrowly escaped by taking cover behind a vehicle.
Johnson took the stand in his defense and testified that while he had a gun, he never fired it and had not planned on hurting anyone.
“I was terrified that if I tried to help them that I’d be the next victim,” Johnson said. “It was the most belligerent, terrifying thing in my whole life. . . . This family did not deserve this.”
In September, California Gov. Jerry Brown signed a law that will limit the ability of prosecutors to charge accomplices with murder unless they assisted directly or were “a major participant in the underlying felony and acted with reckless indifference to human life.” The change takes effect in January.
Whether it would have made a difference in the prosecution of Johnson is subject to debate. Sacramento County Deputy District Attorney Jeff Hightower told the newspaper that he believes Johnson could have been charged under the law.
But community activist Jamila Land, with whom Johnson lived as a teen while he was homeless, said it should matter that Johnson did not pull the trigger of the gun and has no previous criminal record.
Nguyen and Johnson are scheduled to be sentenced Monday and could get life in prison.
[Feature Photo: Elijah Johnson and Daniel Nguyen/Sacramento County Sheriff’s Department]