Man with prior felony found guilty of murder
Emanuelu Tunoa faces life in prison after a jury convicts him of a beating death
A Waipahu man has been convicted a second time in a decade in connection with the deaths of acquaintances.
A Circuit Court jury deliberated for 2 1/2 days before finding Emanuelu Tunoa guilty yesterday of second-degree murder in the March 2003 death of Tuputala Esau, who allegedly owed him money.
He faces a life term with the possibility of parole when sentenced Jan. 10, but prosecutors said they will ask that it be extended to life without parole because he is dangerous and used a firearm.
"He's already killed one person in a prior felony," said Deputy Prosecutor Albert Cook. "Even if he was only convicted of second-degree assault, it involved the beating death of someone wanting to leave a gang. In this case, he shot someone point-blank with a shotgun."
Defense attorney Myles Breiner disputed that Tunoa is a danger to society and said he will oppose the extended term. "He didn't commit the crime," Breiner said.
Tunoa was charged with second-degree murder but was convicted of a lesser charge of second-degree assault in the 1995 beating, and it was another individual who was found guilty of second- degree murder. Tunoa spent three years in prison in that case.
In this case, Esau and Tunoa were among a group of men drinking near a bridge on Leokane Street in the early morning hours of March 29, 2003, when witnesses said Tunoa pulled out a shotgun and shot Esau three times after Tunoa demanded his money.
Tunoa, 27, claimed he was drunk and had passed out in his car parked nearby and could not have shot Esau. He contends another man known to the others as "Silent" and who witnesses said kicked Tunoa in the head during the confrontation was responsible.
Tunoa's brother testified his brother had drunk two cases of beer that night and had passed out.
Breiner said the prosecution's witnesses are all drug addicts who had reason to lie to police about their whereabouts and drug activities prior to the shooting. "If they're lying about what they're doing before the shooting, why believe their story about how the shooting occurred?" he said.
But Cook said it took a lot of courage for the witnesses to come forward and testify about what they saw given that their friend had just been killed and they were receiving threats.
Breiner said they intend to appeal. Tunoa showed no visible reaction when the guilty verdicts were read other than nodding his head. He later shook hands with Breiner and thanked him for his help.