Judge postpones trial for man accused of killing Philip Davis

By NEAL WAGNER / City Editor

Shelby County Circuit Court Judge Michael Joiner postponed the trial for a Kimberly man accused of shooting and killing a Pelham Police officer during a December 2009 traffic stop on Interstate 65.

Bart Johnson

Although the trial was scheduled to go to trial on Feb. 14, 2011, Joiner postponed the date to sometime in late March or early April at the request of defendant Bart Wayne Johnson’s lawyers.

Johnson was arrested on Dec. 4, 2009, several hours after Pelham Police officer Philip Davis was shot and killed during a traffic stop on I-65 between the tank farm exit and the Alabama 119 exit.

The trial postponement came at the request of Johnson’s defense attorneys, Gregory Cox and Charles Salvagio.

Although the defense attorneys requested the trial be moved to the end of summer, Joiner instead postponed it about a month. The judge said the trial most likely will begin on March 28, according to Shelby County Assistant District Attorney Bill Bostick.

“(Joiner) indicated that the trial would be in late March,” Bostick said. “He put a target date between spring break and Easter. He said the most likely date would be March 28.”

Cox requested the rescheduling because he will be undergoing surgery in early 2011, which will interfere with his ability to prepare for the trial, he told Joiner.

The defense attorneys also asked Joiner to reschedule the trial until the end of summer to allow them time to complete Johnson’s psychiatric evaluation, research Johnson’s life and complete several other tasks, Bostick said.

Bostick said he and Shelby County District Attorney Robby Owens objected to the postponement, but understood why Joiner continued the trial until March.

“It’s been our goal all along that once we are given the evidence and have done all the discovery work that we begin the trial as quickly as possible,” Bostick said. “But with Greg Cox having surgery, I can understand the reasoning behind granting the trial a brief continuance of about a month.”

Johnson is accused of shooting and killing Davis while the officer was conducting a traffic stop of the suspect on Dec. 3, 2009.

Johnson faces two counts of capital murder, one for intentionally killing an on-duty police officer and another for intentionally causing death by shooting from an occupied vehicle. He has pleaded not guilty on both charges.

Johnson is currently being held in the Shelby County Jail without bond.

Davis had served with the department since 2005, and was the first officer killed in the line of duty in the department’s 45-year history.

On Dec. 4, 2010, the department held a memorial service for Davis at his graveside in the Southern Heritage Cemetery off Alabama 119 in Pelham.