Jury Issues Split Verdict In N.C. State Tailgate Shootings Trial
Posted August 18, 2005 7:38 a.m. EDT
Updated March 6, 2007 3:52 p.m. EST
RALEIGH, N.C. — The jury issued a split verdict Thursday in the trial of a man accused of shooting two people at a North Carolina State tailgate party on Labor Day weekend in 2004.
Timothy Johnson, 23, was found guilty of first-degree murder for the death of Chicago businessman Kevin McCann, 23, and second-degree murder in the death of 2nd Lt. Brett Harman, 23, also from Chicago.
Investigators say Timothy Johnson and his brother, Tony Johnson, 21, were seen fighting with McCann and Harman outside Carter-Finley Stadium. Witnesses said the brothers left, then later came back and shot McCann and Harman.
Emotions ranged from relief to devastation in the courtroom as the verdict was announced. Timothy Johnson put his head down on the table in front of him.
"There's just not words to say how you feel when something like this happens because you have just expectations that it will turn out better than this," said Patsy Simpkins, a Johnson family friend.
After a two-week trial and three days of deliberations, even the Johnson family was not prepared to hear the worst. Ann Johnson, the defendant's mother, had to be supported by her family as she left the courtroom sobbing.
"Tim, I love you," she said to her crying son as he was led out of the courtroom.
"Everybody looks at you as if you are a monster," said defense attorney Joe Cheshire, speaking of the Johnson family. "They've lost their son and they're torn to pieces."
The verdict brings some, but not total relief, to the victims' families.
"In our minds, it was a great verdict," said Terry McCann, Kevin McCann's brother. "It gives us a sense to move along. The main thing it doesn't do -- it doesn't bring back Brett or Kevin, which is really the only relief."
The victims' families waited almost a year for the trial to be over, and they say they will continue to be strong as the sentencing phase begins -- and another trial, that of Tony Johnson, who will be tried in October on the same charges.
"I don't want to crawl up in a hole and make this the defining moment of my life -- that I lost my son," said Brett Harman's mother, Nancy Tighe. "Sometimes, I feel it's the hardest thing I ever faced, but I think Brett would want me to go on."
Prosecutors argued in the two-week trial that the victims did nothing to cause their deaths, but defense attorneys said the victims contributed to the situation and that their client was guilty only of voluntary manslaughter.
During his trial, Timothy Johnson took the stand in his own defense and said he never meant to kill anyone. He said he was protecting his brother.
During deliberations, jurors asked to see several exhibits, including transcripts of 911 calls and calls Timothy Johnson made from jail and psychiatrist reports.
The jury had to consider first-degree murder, second-degree murder, voluntary manslaughter or not guilty for each killing.
The case continues Friday with a sentencing hearing. Both sides will present more testimony, including victims' family members, who will talk about their loss. Then, the jury must decide whether Timothy Johnson will spend his life in prison or face the death penalty.