Prosecution, Defense Present Case In N.C. State Tailgate Murder Trial
Posted August 1, 2005
RALEIGH, N.C. — Both the prosecution and defense laid out their cases Monday in the trial of one of two men accused of double murder at an North Carolina State University tailgating party last Labor Day.
In her opening statement, prosecutor Susan Spurlin said Timothy Johnson pointed a gun at Brett Harman and shot him in the head. She also said Johnson shot Harman's friend, Kevin McCann.
Defense attorneys admitted Johnson fired the fatal shots, but said he was only trying to defend his brother, Tony.
"They came into the tailgate site and they presented Tim Johnson with a sight none of us ever wants to see -- a loved one, our own flesh and blood -- no matter how stupid and no matter how bombed out of their mind -- about to be attacked by a large group of people who definitely looked like they could carry it off," defense attorney Brad Bannon said. "It was at that point in time that Tim Johnson made a terrible and fateful decision."
Both Timothy Johnson and Tony Johnson were charged with the double murder. Timothy Johnson's trial is expected to last about four weeks. Tony Johnson's trial is scheduled to start in October.
"To kill two people," said Rob Harman, Brett Harman's brother, "it's just incomprehensible."
Harman's family knows both trials will be difficult to sit through.
"They'll say whatever they have to try to save Tim Johnson's life," Rob Harman said.
Investigators said a fight took place about an hour before the shooting. They said the Johnson brothers left after the fight, came back with a gun and shot and killed McCann and Harman.
Defense attorneys made a big point of saying that Timothy Johnson carried a gun with him for self-defense and that he did not leave the party to retrieve it. They painted Tony Johnson as a troublemaker who was often being bailed out by his brother.
The victims' families believe McCann and Harman were killed while trying to prevent the situation from escalating.
"There's no way they (McCann and Harman) wouldn't step in and try to aid their friends," Rob Harman said. "That's the way they lived. And, unfortunately, that's the way they died."
Dozens of tailgaters who were in the parking lot of Carter-Finley Stadium when the shooting happened are expected to testify during the trial.
Defense attorneys for Timothy Johnson also argued that he had a diminished mental capacity when the shootings happened. Prosecutors, who had Johnson evaluated at Dorothea Dix before the trial proceedings began, said they do not accept the argument and believe Johnson knew exactly what he was doing.
"This case is about choices," Spurlin said. "It's about the choices this defendant made; choices about his life; choices about who he was going to be and how he was going to live."
If convicted of the murders, the Johnson brothers could face the death penalty. Both are currently serving prison sentences for home invasion charges.
Rob Harman said there was no outcome that would bring back his brother and friend. Even a guilty verdict, he said, would not give his family closure.
"That's not going to make me happy," he said. "It's not going to bring back these kids. It doesn't make me happy to think about his family in pain and suffering."