Johnson v. State

Decision Date20 May 2014
Docket NumberCR–10–1606.
Citation256 So.3d 684
Parties Bart Wayne JOHNSON v. STATE of Alabama.
CourtAlabama Court of Criminal Appeals

William L. Pfeifer, Jr., Birmingham; and Randall S. Susskind and Benjamin H. Schaefer, Montgomery, for appellant.

Luther Strange, atty. gen., and Jess R. Nix and Andrew L. Brasher, deputy attys. gen., and Lauren A. Simpson, asst. atty. gen., for appellee.

BURKE, Judge.

Bart Wayne Johnson was convicted of two counts of murder made capital because the victim was a police officer who was on duty, see § 13A–5–40(a)(5), Ala.Code 1975, and because the murder was committed by or through the use of a deadly weapon fired within or from a vehicle, see § 13A–5–40(a)(18), Ala.Code 1975. The jury, by a vote of 10 to 2, recommended that Johnson be sentenced to death. The trial court followed the jury's recommendation. Johnson appeals his convictions and death sentence.

Before trial, Johnson informed the trial court that he would not proceed on his plea of not guilty and that he would proceed solely on the plea that he was not guilty by reason of mental disease or defect at the time of the offense. (R. 87–88.)

Facts

At trial, the State set forth evidence indicating the following. Shortly before midnight on December 3, 2009, Phillip Davis, a police officer employed by the City of Pelham, stopped Johnson in Pelham as he was driving north on Interstate Highway 65. The traffic stop was recorded on a digital camera located in Officer Davis's vehicle. Officer Davis also had a wireless microphone attached to his person that recorded sound during the traffic stop. The digital recording was played for the jury at trial.

Officer Davis notified the dispatch center of the traffic stop before exiting his vehicle. After exiting his vehicle, Officer Davis approached the driver's side window of Johnson's vehicle, which was an Acura sedan that had a personalized Alabama license plate that read "JCREW1." Officer Davis informed Johnson that he was being stopped for speeding and asked him for his driver's license. Officer Davis then asked Johnson: "Is this your car?" Johnson responded: "Nah, I just stole it." Officer Davis replied: "I'm glad you're in a jovial mood. The only reason I asked is to see if you have your proof of insurance. Sometimes when you're borrowing a car you don't know where it is." After receiving Johnson's driver's license, Officer Davis returned to his vehicle. While Officer Davis was in his vehicle, Johnson turned off the interior lights of his vehicle and raised the automatic sunshade in the rear window of his vehicle. After approximately five minutes, Officer Davis returned to the driver's side window of Johnson's vehicle to issue Johnson a speeding ticket. Officer Davis asked Johnson where he worked, and Johnson responded: "I don't see why it matters." Officer Davis replied: "Okay. Unemployed." Officer Davis then wrote on the ticket. Johnson then stated: "Man, I've been on the road for like four hours, man. My brother is a cop. I totally understand that you're just doing your job." Officer Davis responded:

"Now, you want to be cool? Now, you want to start acting reasonable? Now? Now that I've brought a ticket up here, you want to start being reasonable? That's amazing. Have your brother call me, and I'll tell him how you acted, and then we'll see how that works out, okay?"

Officer Davis then leaned toward the driver's side window and stated: "I need your signature at the bottom." Immediately, Johnson shot Officer Davis in the face with a pistol, and Officer Davis fell to the ground. Johnson then drove away without delay.

Dr. Alfredo Paredes, a senior medical examiner with the Alabama Department of Forensic Sciences, performed the autopsy on Officer Davis's body on December 4, 2009. Dr. Paredes testified that Officer Davis "died from a gunshot wound to the face that injured his spinal column." (R. 1515.) Dr. Paredes also testified that, based on his examination of the gunshot wound, the gunshot was fired within a few inches of Officer Davis's face. (R. 1507.)

A couple of minutes after the shooting, a truck driver observed Officer Davis's body lying across the fog line of the right-hand lane of the interstate. The truck driver stopped and telephoned emergency 911. The police officers who initially responded to the scene of the shooting discovered Officer Davis's ticket book lying near his body. The most recent ticket in the book contained information about Johnson, including his name, his address, a description of his vehicle, and his license-plate number. A few minutes after arriving at the scene of the shooting, the officers watched the digital recording of the traffic stop in Officer Davis's vehicle, and they were able to see what had transpired.

Shortly after midnight on December 4, 2009, Loleatha Story, who lives in the Inglenook neighborhood on the northern side of Birmingham, heard a vehicle drive into the alley beside her house. Story looked out her window and saw an Acura sedan park in the alley. Story saw a white male get out of the Acura, walk to her daughter's vehicle that was parked near the house, and attempt to open the door of her daughter's vehicle. Story asked the man what he was doing. The man responded by raising his hand and walking away. Story then called the police and gave them the license-plate number of the Acura, which was "JCREW1". The police informed Story that they were looking for that vehicle and that she should not go outside. Story continued to look out her window, and she observed someone in a gray Toyota Tundra truck pick up the driver of the Acura and drive away. A map of Story's neighborhood was admitted into evidence at trial.

Shortly after the police officers responded to the scene of the shooting and observed what had transpired, they issued a notice to "be on the look out" ("BOLO") for an Acura sedan with a "JCREW1" license plate. Approximately one hour after the shooting, Jason Grant, a police officer employed by the City of Trussville, became aware that the owner of the Acura sedan was the brother of another Trussville police officer, Bill Johnson ("Bill"), and that another officer had recently seen Bill's gray Toyota Tundra traveling down the road. Officer Grant then telephoned Bill and directed him to go to Johnson's house in Kimberly, which is a community on the northern side of Birmingham. About five minutes later, Officer Grant telephoned Bill again to make sure that he was going to Johnson's house. At that time, Bill stated that he had not been in contact with Johnson and that he was going to his sister's house that was south of Birmingham because, Bill said, Johnson had been temporarily living at that house.

Officer Grant responded by ordering Bill to go to Johnson's house, and Bill replied that he would go to Johnson's house. However, Bill never went to Johnson's house.

Around 1:30 a.m. on December 4, 2009, Officer Grant became aware that the Acura sedan with the "JCREW1" license plate had been found in Inglenook and that the driver of the Acura had been picked up in a truck matching the description of Bill's truck. Officer Grant telephoned Bill again and informed him that a BOLO had been issued for his truck and that he needed to immediately stop if he saw any police officers.

After the telephone conversation with Officer Grant and while traveling southbound on Interstate Highway 65 with Johnson in the truck, Bill stopped on the side of the interstate near some police officers from the City of Hoover, and Bill and Johnson exited the truck. The Hoover police officers took Johnson into custody without resistance. As Johnson was being taken into custody, he was asked whether he was Bart Johnson. Initially, Johnson did not reply, but as he was being taken to a police vehicle, he stated: "Hey, man, I'm your guy. I'm the one you're looking for." (R. 1407.)

A .40 caliber pistol was recovered from the glove compartment of Bill's Toyota Tundra truck. DNA analysis revealed that, with a high degree of certainty, blood found on that pistol came from Officer Davis. DNA analysis further revealed that, with a high degree of certainty, blood found on Johnson's Acura sedan and on his clothing came from Officer Davis.

The defense set forth evidence indicating the following. Johnson was employed as a pharmacist by Fred's Pharmacy. Wes Maddox, a pharmacist who was in charge of Fred's Pharmacy stores in Alabama and who had worked with Johnson, testified that he was not aware that Johnson had any anger issues and that Johnson was a good employee. In the days leading up to the shooting, Johnson had been working in Bayou La Batre at the grand opening of a new Fred's Pharmacy store. Maddox testified that, at his request, Johnson had assisted with opening the new store on November 19–20, 2009, and November 30–December 3, 2009. Maddox further testified that the grand opening had been stressful and that Johnson had worked long hours during that time.

Dr. Albert Smith, a family-practice physician, testified that he had treated Johnson for migraine headaches and that he had prescribed Imitrex to Johnson to help alleviate his symptoms. Dr. Smith stated that he had seen anxiety listed as one of the possible, but rare, side effects of Imitrex.

Dr. Charles Golden testified for the defense as a mental-health expert. Dr. Golden examined Johnson, interviewed several of his family members, and watched the digital recording of the shooting. Dr. Golden concluded that Johnson suffered from dyssomnia, a somatoform disorder, and a personality disorder that included aspects of depression, anxiety, and paranoia. Dr. Golden further concluded that Johnson suffered an acute or brief psychotic episode that rendered him incapable of understanding the wrongfulness of his acts at the time he shot Officer Davis.

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3 cases
  • White v. State
    • United States
    • Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals
    • April 12, 2019
    ...on collateral review. Rather, Hurst applies only to cases not yet final when that opinion was released, such as Johnson [v. State, 256 So.3d 684 (Ala. Crim. App. 2014) ], a case that was still on direct appeal (specifically pending certiorari review in the United States Supreme Court when H......
  • Russell v. State, CR–10–1910
    • United States
    • Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals
    • May 29, 2015
    ...tendency to influence the finding of the jury." Jones v. State, 456 So.2d 366, 375 (Ala.Crim.App.1983). See also Johnson v. State, 256 So.3d 684 (Ala.Crim.App.2014) ; Ballard v. State, 767 So.2d 1123 (Ala.Crim.App.1999).Here, forensic evidence showed that Katherine was shot as she was crouc......
  • Skipper v. Skipper
    • United States
    • Alabama Court of Civil Appeals
    • January 12, 2018

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