Killer's fate decided today

Published 7:32 pm Thursday, February 22, 2007

By By Kerry Whipple-Bean
The fate of an Atmore man lies in the hands of Escambia County Circuit Court Judge Bradley Byrne. And that fate will be delivered at 1 p.m. today.
Christopher Johnson faces sentencing today after being convicted by a jury for the death of his 6-month-old son, Elias Ocean Johnson.
Two possible sentences in the case are death or life in prison without possibility of parole. A jury made a recommendation of the death sentence following a two and a half day trial in December.
Following testimony by witnesses, including the infant's mother, Dana Johnson, jurors deliberated for less than 30 minutes to return a guilty verdict in the case. After less than 20 minutes in the jury room, the group returned a recommendation that Johnson be sentenced to death for his crime.
During the trial, jurors heard testimony from Johnson saying he was guilty of the crime with which he had been charged.
"I knew what I was doing," Johnson told the jury. "The last words I said to my son was 'You go see Jesus.' I hated my wife. By killing him, I didn't have to be with her anymore or hear her threats of sending me to jail."
As Johnson's attorneys, Todd Stearns and Charles Johnson, were preparing to make their closing arguments in the case, the defendant fired the co-counselors saying they misled him about the possible outcome of the case.
"They lied to me and I don't trust them," Johnson said on the last day of the trial. "I was misled by them, either intentionally or accidentally. They did not inform me of the options the jury might be faced with in this case. I went with their advice not to testify for myself. I want to testify and let the truth be heard."
During the final minutes of the trial, a tape bearing Johnson's statement on the day of the infant's death, gave information that Johnson did cause life-threatening injuries to the child.
"I did slap him twice," Johnson said in response to the taped information. "I did put my hand over his mouth and I did put my fingers in his mouth. I did not cause blunt force injuries to my son."
Following Johnson's admission on the witness stand, the jury took less than half an hour to render its guilty verdict.
Prosecuting attorney Reo Kirkland Jr. thanked the jury for their verdict and asked that they recommend the death penalty.
Johnson also addressed the jury prior to the penalty phase of the case.
"I am 34 years old, Johnson told the jury. "I don't want to spend the next 40 years in prison. Don't hold it against yourself for what you have to do. I've already made that decision. There is no other sentence than death that can be made today.
Although an appeal is typical when guilty verdicts are returned in capital murder cases, Johnson made it a point twice during the closing of the trial that he did not wish the case to be appealed.
"I want to go on record as saying that I don't want to appeal the verdict or the sentencing," Johnson told presiding Judge Bradley Byrne. "I don't want anyone else to appeal it for me either. This is what I deserve."

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