Justified death for Johnson

Published 10:28 am Tuesday, May 17, 2011

While the jurors in the Bart Wayne Johnson trial must have been heartbroken when they watched a video of the Johnson family and heard Johnson’s children say, “I love you, Daddy,” that didn’t distract those 12 men and women from their mission: meting out justice for Johnson’s horrendous crime, shooting Pelham police officer Philip Davis to death Dec. 3, 2009.

Although it took longer than anyone predicted, in seven hours those jurors chose to recommend Johnson be put to death by lethal injection for his crime.

We believe the jurors, faced with an almost-impossible choice, made the right one. The crime itself was so violent, so incomprehensible, that we wonder how the jurors could have made any other choice.

They followed Alabama law in making sure there was an aggravated circumstance involved in this crime, which is required to call for the death penalty. We understand there may have been long-running tensions in Johnson’s background, with social worker Nadine Mass’s testimony that Johnson’s family has a history of mental illness, substance abuse and dysfunction.

However, these circumstances cannot be excuses for Johnson’s actions. He made his own choices and he alone made the decision to pull the trigger, whatever stresses or fatigue he was suffering from.

Because of Bart Wayne Johnson, Paula Davis and her two sons will never see Philip Davis come in the front door after work again. They’ll never reach out for hugs and kisses from him again. The boys won’t have their father at their high school and college graduations, at their weddings or at the births of their children. The magnitude of Johnson’s crime cannot be overstated. That’s why putting him to death is the appropriate response.

The We Say is the opinion of the Shelby County Reporter editorial board.