It’s death for convicted cop killer

Published 12:26 am Saturday, May 14, 2011

Bart Johnson at an earlier phase of his trial. (Reporter file photo)


COLUMBIANA — A jury of eight men and four women deliberated for nearly seven hours before recommending convicted cop killer Bart Wayne Johnson be put to death by lethal injection.

Those same jurors on Thursday found Johnson guilty of the Dec. 3, 2009, fatal shooting of Pelham police officer Philip Davis. Just before midnight, Davis had stopped Johnson on I-65 and was attempting to issue a traffic violation when Johnson pulled a 40 caliber Glock handgun and shot Davis in the face. Johnson fled the scene, leaving Davis to die in the roadway.

Jurors began deliberating at 1:21 p.m. on Friday afternoon. After about an hour, jurors signaled they did not fully understand Judge Al Crowson’s instructions involving aggravated and mitigating circumstances.

In Alabama, an aggravating circumstance, such as committing murder while trying to evade arrest, is required for the jury to recommend the death penalty.

Crowson reconvened all parties and re-charged the jury, after which he made each juror nod their head indicating that they understood his instructions.

Jurors resumed deliberations at 2:47 p.m. Jurors asked another question later in the afternoon. Then, at about 5:35 p.m., they sent a message to the Crowson, asking to be allowed to take a break. Crowson sent the jury on a dinner break that lasted nearly two hours.

Jurors returned a sentencing recommendation less than an hour after returning from dinner.

Earlier in the day, jurors heard New York City social worker Nadine Mass testify that Johnson’s family has a history of mental illness and dysfunction on his father’s side and substance abuse and dysfunction on his mother’s side.

Mass said she had spent a total of about 250 hours on forming her opinions about Johnson’s family dynamic, which may have influenced his actions, she said.

Prosecutors during cross examination asked Mass who is paying her for her work on the case, and whether she is being paid by the hour.

Mass said the state of Alabama is paying her hourly rate and that she expects to earn about $20,000.

Jurors viewed a video put together by Mass, which ended with the voices of Johnson’s children saying, “I love you, Daddy.” Johnson audibly sobbed at the sound of his children’s voices.

He also wiped away tears when his wife, Dana, took the stand in an attempt to convince jurors to spare her husband’s life. She told jurors she still loves her husband and that he is her soul mate.

Johnson’s defense attorney said to Mrs. Johnson, “Many people are asking why. Why did this happen? Do you know why this happened?”

Trying to speak while holding back tears, she said, “I have no idea.”

Johnson showed no emotion when the jury’s recommendation was read. His wife, who was seated two rows behind where Johnson sat in the courtroom, bowed her head into her hands.

When Johnson was led away, he looked briefly at his wife and nodded.

Before the jury’s sentencing recommendation was read, Crowson instructed those in the courtroom to not show any outward demonstration of emotion, and there was none.

Crowson set Johnson’s sentencing date for June 16 at 1:30 p.m. He ordered a pre-sentencing investigation be completed before that date.