On Tuesday, October 2, in less than a day of deliberating at the Beverly Hills Courthouse, the 12-member jury agreed on a verdict: Scott Joseph Barker, a 25-year-old who came to Los Angeles from Florida in the hope of becoming a screenwriter and actor, was found guilty of murdering Beverly Hills resident Tony Takazato. Barker sat expressionless when the court clerk read the decision.
Barker was convicted of first-degree murder with a special circumstance — and faces a sentence of life without parole. Undoubtedly a fate he never expected when first arriving in L.A., Barker may end up growing old and dying in a California state prison.
The murder trial involved a bizarre love triangle that went bone-chillingly sideways — and one that the L.A. media took little interest in, although it spoke more to L.A.'s dark side of broken dreams and ugly behavior than another Lindsay Lohan bust.
According to L.A. county prosecutors Amy Carter and Linda Loftfield, Scott Barker, who was 23 years old at the time, was enraged that Tony Takazato had pushed his girlfriend, then 20-year-old Chie Alexandra Coggins-Johnson, into prostitution and pornography. Takazato also was abusive toward Coggins-Johnson, the prosecution said.
Coggins-Johnson and Takazato once were romantically linked, but that turned into a “friendship,” the prosecutors said. She lived on and off with Takazato in Beverly Hills. In the early morning of July 20, 2010, that arrangement ended forever.
According to the prosecution, Barker went to Takazato's Trousdale Estates home in Beverly Hills and stabbed him 58 times, leaving the 21-year-old in a pool of blood and with wounds to the face, the arms, the neck and the back of the head. The fatal wound was a knife thrust to the heart.
Coggins-Johnson was initially at the scene and drove away. She and Barker were later charged with murder. Working closely with prosecutors, she pleaded no contest to assault with a deadly weapon under the theory that she'd aided and abetted Barker and would testify against him.
Bradley Brunon said in his opening statement that Johnson is a “pathological liar,” and Barker did not commit the murder.
On Tuesday, the jury of nine men and three woman didn't go for Brunon's argument. In fact, the jury started deliberating on Tuesday morning, quickly returning with the guilty verdict by the early afternoon. The trial took a little over four weeks to complete.
“It seemed like a foregone conclusion,” Brunon told L.A. Weekly about the verdict. “I think [the jury] accepted everything at face value.”
At 3:50 p.m., the courtroom of Judge Elden S. Fox was filled with Beverly Hills Police Department officials and various court observers when the verdict was read. Barker sat next to Brunon, and his parents sat behind him in the gallery. Barker's parents showed no outward emotion when hearing about the fate of their son, but they appeared to be stunned.
“They're shocked,” Brunon said later. “They thought the worst that would happen is a hung jury.”
After their son was taken away, Beverly Hills Detective George Elwell, the lead investigator in the Takazato homicide, walked over to George and Cheryl Barker and extended his hand. Elwell offered moral support with a handshake and a kind word. George Barker accepted. His wife did not.
L.A. County prosecutors Linda Loftfield and Amy Carter were pleased with the result. “I thought it was a just verdict,” Loftfield told the Weekly. Carter said the evidence against Barker was overwhelming. “It was just one thing after another,” Carter said.
“It wasn't just one thing” that pointed to Barker's guilt. She added, “The reason [the trial] took so long was that there were so many details.”
Takazato's movie producer father, Fuminori Hayashida, was not present in the courtroom for the verdict. Neither was Barker's ex-girlfriend, Chie Coggins-Johnson, who proved to be a main witness against him.
Attorney Bradley Brunon was unsure that Barker has fully grasped the consequences of the verdict. “He's just a youngster,” said Brunon. “I don't think he really understands the enormity of what happened.”
Barker arrived in L.A. hoping to make it big in the entertainment industry. Within a matter of months, he found himself charged with murder and locked up in a Los Angeles County jail. Just before the death of Takazato, Barker was planning to move back to Florida. When he's sentenced on November 9, Barker may find himself stuck behind bars and never leaving the state of California again.