Trial ends with hung jury in 24-year-old murder case 

The case of a decades-old Long Beach gang killing ended in a mistrial Friday when jurors deadlocked 8-4 in favor of finding the defendant guilty.

After three days of deliberations, jurors could not come to a unanimous decision to convict or acquit 45-year-old Wayne Taufi of murdering Jorge Martinez, who was about to go to the movies with his girlfriend when he was gunned down in 1996, according to authorities.

Martinez’s death was considered a cold case until new information came to light and investigators arrested Taufi in 2015, according to the Long Beach Police Department. Taufi was already in custody on unrelated charges, police said.

After his arrest, Taufi pleaded not guilty to one count of murder, and his trial began last month at the Governor George Deukmejian Courthouse in Downtown Long Beach.

Over several days of testimony, Deputy District Attorney Delanee Hicks did not detail exactly what new information led to Taufi’s arrest, but did show evidence that Taufi was a member of the Suicidals subset of the Sons of Samoa street gang that sold drugs out of the alley where Martinez was found dead near Linden Avenue and 14th Street.

One witness testified he saw a group of men surround Martinez, ask what gang he was from and then shoot him after he replied, “I don’t know.”

Taufi’s attorney, Kevin McGurk, however, said witnesses’ stories had shifted in the decades since the killing.

He also argued there was no physical evidence tying Taufi to the crime. In his opening statement, he highlighted just how old the case was, pointing out that police found only three bullet casings at the scene of the shooting, but an evidence box now holds six, and no one knows where the extras came from.

“That’s what happens when boxes sit on shelves for 19, 20 years,” said McGurk as the trial began.

It’s unclear if those issues or something else deadlocked jurors.

“I would be speculating to say anything,” Hicks said Monday.

Hicks said she plans on retrying the case in front of a new jury.

Taufi remains jailed on $2 million bail in the meantime.

McGurk wasn’t immediately available for an interview Monday.

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Jeremiah Dobruck is the breaking news editor for the Long Beach Post. He began his journalism career in 2007 as an intern at Palos Verdes Peninsula News and has worked for The Forum Newsgroup in New York City, the Daily Pilot and the Press-Telegram. He lives in Torrance with his wife, Lindsey, and their two young children.
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