Death penalty the right punishment for Johnson

Published 12:37 pm Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Before May 13, I wasn’t certain how I felt about the death penalty.

After all, that’s the ultimate “What would Jesus do” question, isn’t it?

However, covering the sentencing phase of convicted cop killer Bart Wayne Johnson’s trial provided me with clarity on the issue.

Just like everyone else in the courtroom that day, I cringed when I heard Johnson’s young children on a video shown to jurors yell out to their father, “I love you, Daddy!”

My heart hurt to think about those innocent children who will grow up with a father who is imprisoned and faces execution for killing a police officer.

But, after that initial wave of emotion, I thought about Pelham Police Officer Philip Davis’s children. They can’t record a video to tell their father how much they love him, all because of the angry, evil, senseless act of Johnson.

I was profoundly saddened by the testimony of Johnson’s wife, Dana, who, when asked why her husband committed this horrible murder, responded, “I have no idea.”

I thought about how her life changed in an instant. Then, I thought about how Paula Davis’s life changed in that instant, too, all because of Johnson’s ultimate act of anger and selfishness.

Alabama law demands the death penalty for crimes like Johnson’s. It provides very specific circumstances exist before a jury can consider putting someone to death. Johnson’s crime meets and exceeds the death penalty standard.

I was very impressed by Pelham Mayor Don Murphy, the many members of the Pelham Police Department, Mrs. Davis and her family and friends, who kept vigil at the trial, including the almost seven hours of jury deliberation over the sentencing recommendation. All expressed empathy for Johnson’s wife and children and the life they are now forced to endure.

But we live in a society of laws, and Johnson’s crime demands justice. Alabama law is crystal clear on what that justice should be.

I hope and expect Judge Al Crowson will follow the jury’s death penalty recommendation when he sentences Johnson on June 16.

Jan Griffey is the Editor for the Shelby County Reporter. She can be reached at 669-3131 ext. 36 or by email at