Life or death: Johnson sentencing phase resumes Friday

Published 6:41 pm Thursday, May 12, 2011

By BRAD GASKINS / Staff Writer

COLUMBIANA – Convicted cop-killer Bart Johnson will have to wait at least another day to learn if he’ll spend the rest of his life in prison or die by lethal injection.

A Shelby County jury found him guilty Thursday afternoon of two counts of capital murder for shooting and killing Pelham Police officer Philip Davis.

The sentencing phase began immediately after the verdict was announced but recessed for the day just before 5 p.m.

Testimony resumes Friday at 9 a.m. The defense is scheduled to call two witnesses – including Johnson’s wife – to the stand.

The jury will then hear closing arguments, instructions of the law and then deliberate Johnson’s fate with two options: life without the possibility of parole or death by lethal injection.

A jury vote of 10-2 is required to sentence Johnson to death. A 7-5 vote will send him to prison for life.

State prosecutors told jurors Johnson deserves to die. Two state witnesses gave statements Thursday: Pelham police Lt. Pete Folmar and Davis’ wife, Paula.

The Pelham police suffered a “loss of innocence” with Davis’ death, Folmar said.

“Philip’s death was crushing,” Folmar said. “It crushed our individual sprits. It crushed, at least for a while, the atmosphere around the Pelham police department.”

A tearful but composed Davis told jurors how she first met her late husband, how she learned he was dead and the struggles of raising the couple’s two children with no father.

“My world came crashing down,” Davis said. “All I could think of was Philip wasn’t coming home.

“Having to deal with two children on my own is very hard. How do you explain to children that their dad isn’t coming home?”

The defense called on five witnesses for Johnson, including his biological father.

A childhood friend, high school teacher, uncle and former employer all said the same thing about Johnson: he was friendly guy whom you’d never think capable of killing a cop.

Willard Johnson said his son still has something to offer the world.

“Even if he’s in jail for the rest of his life, he’s going to be helping someone,” Willard Johnson said. “He always has and always will.”