Timothy Johnson's Fate In Hands Of Jurors
Posted August 17, 2005
RALEIGH, N.C. — The witnesses have testified and the attorneys have argued their cases. Now, it is up to 12 men and women to decide the future of a former North Carolina State University student accused of killing two men at a tailgating party last fall.
For an hour Tuesday morning, a judge explained the law in detail to jurors in the Timothy Johnson murder trial. Johnson, 23, is charged in connection with the shooting deaths of 2nd Lt. Brett Harman and Kevin McCann, both 23, of Chicago.
At about 11 a.m., jurors were left to decide Johnson's fate. They asked to see several exhibits, including transcripts of 911 calls and calls Johnson made from jail and psychiatrist reports.
Although it may seem like a cut-and-dry case -- two people are dead and Johnson admits to shooting them -- under the law, they have two separate killings with four possible outcomes to consider: first-degree murder, second-degree murder, voluntary manslaughter or not guilty.
What they decide in Harman's death hinges upon whether Johnson was trying to protect his younger brother, Tony Johnson, who will go on trial for the killings in October. If he was, the law says it is not murder.
In the killing of McCann, the case hinges upon whether Johnson was trying to protect himself or whether he killed McCann during the commission of another felony -- the death of Harman.
The jury must consider each killing separately. If it decides a first-degree murder conviction in either death, then it will also decide Johnson's sentence -- life in prison or the death penalty -- in a separate phase of the trial.
Prosecutors say the victims did nothing to cause their deaths, but defense attorneys say the victims contributed to the situation and that their client was guilty only of voluntary manslaughter.
For the two weeks that the trial lasted, it was an emotional rollercoaster for family and friends of the victims and Timothy Johnson. Now, the only thing they can do is wait.
"I think they worked hard," said defense attorney Joe Cheshire of the jurors. "They took notes. They'll do it in due time."
Cheshire says waiting is part of the game, but it is not as hard for him as it is for his client.
"However people portray Tim, he's a young man who made a terrible mistake," Cheshire said. "He's scared to death and he's humble about it. He's a nice kid."
Family and friends who lost Harman and McCann almost one year ago, say that now the only thing they can do is to be there to represent the victims.
"They were wonderful people," said Zora Popovic, who dated Harman for seven years. "We have to be here to represent them because they can't represent themselves."
Popovic says Harman and McCann were a magnetic pair who knew how to make people feel special.
"It's a struggle to try to go forward without that person that was everything -- my best friend, my boyfriend," she said.