However, the reversal and dismissal do not affect Johnson’s conviction on the counts of felony first-degree murder and the subsequent court decision for three life sentences. The Appeals Court’s reversal impacts only the 25-year sentence for the especially aggravated robbery conviction.
On Tuesday, the court filed its decision following review of the plea to dismiss Johnson from the three life sentences for his conviction in the murders of Cayci Higgins, O.J. Blair and Dawn Rogers.
Johnson was sentenced to life without the possibility of parole for the conviction of felony first-degree murder and 25 years for especially aggravated robbery.
The three had been shot to death in their apartment off 20th Street N.E.
Twanna “Tart” Blair, who was also in the apartment, survived the shootings and was later charged due to “inconsistencies in her statements to police,” but was found innocent of all charges against her during a trial.
According to the decision from the appeals court, “We affirm the defendant’s conviction and sentences for First-degree murder during the perpetration of or attempt to perpetrate an especially aggravated robbery. The defendant’s conviction for especially aggravated robbery is reversed and dismissed.”
District Attorney General Steve Bebb said today that he has not had the opportunity to read the Appeals Court decision.
“I haven’t read the decision yet,” Bebb said, “but I will respect their decision.”
Richard Fisher was appointed by Bebb as a special prosecutor for the case.
Fisher, who resides in Nashville, could not be reached for a comment.
Steve B. Ward, an attorney in Madisonville who represented Johnson regarding the murder and robbery charges, also couldn’t be reached.
According to Appeals Court documents, Ward argued “that the evidence was insufficient to sustain his convictions, that the district attorney engaged in repeated instances of misconduct substantially prejudicing the jury against him and that the lead detective’s wrongdoing” warranted a new trial.
There were a number of lead detectives in the case throughout the years as investigation into the murders continued. Duff Brumley was the detective who was able to bring the three defendants to charges regarding the triple homicide.
Also charged was Michael Younger.
Brumley was terminated from the Cleveland Police Department after allegations unrelated to the Valentine’s Day homicides case.
Johnson’s attorney cited, “the discovery of wrongdoing by the prosecuting officer in the case taints the evidence in this case to the extent that the verdict should be set aside and a new trial granted.”
Ward also cited Brumley’s credibility.
The Appeals Court decision stated, “We again find the state’s position to be well taken,” citing the post-judgment facts to be “unrelated to the merits and not genuinely disputed.”
Regarding prosecutorial misconduct, Ward noted the “district attorney’s inexcusable repeated violations of the rules in the case,” which in essence “unfairly prejudiced the jury to the point they were unable to render a proper verdict.”
The state court “argues the defendant has waived this issue by failing to raise it in his motion for a new trial.”