In May of 2011, Bart Wayne Johnson was found guilty of killing a Pelham, Alabama police officer in 2009. Johnson was convicted of shooting Philip Davis in the face after he was pulled over and issued a speeding ticket, according to The Birmingham News.
At his sentencing hearing the next month, Johnson was not given life without parole for the death of the police officer, but the death sentence. Jurors voted 10 to 2 in favor of the death sentence for Johnson, who contended throughout the trial that he was not guilty by reason of mental disease or defect. Johnson’s attorney hired a psychologist to testify at trial; the psychologist claimed that at the time the defendant shot Davis, he had a ‘brief psychotic episode.’
Johnson appealed his conviction to the Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals claiming among other things that during the sentencing phase, the prosecutor made false statements. On Tuesday May 20, the appeals court upheld Johnson’s murder conviction.
While the panel of judges upheld Johnson’s conviction 4-0, the court was curious as to why the trial judge sentenced the defendant to death, according to the Associated Press. The trial court judge is required to “enter specific written findings concerning the existence or nonexistence of” circumstances which would be considered mitigating or aggravating, leading to Johnson being given the death sentence. Once the judge in the case turns this information in, it will be reviewed by the appeals court.
While there are certainly people who are serving life behind bars or even facing the death penalty for crimes they did commit, there are also innocent individuals who have been imprisoned for crimes they did not commit. In our criminal justice system, every person along the way is human – judges, prosecutors, defense attorneys, jurors, police officers and other law enforcement personnel. Because we are all human, mistakes can be made; your constitutional rights may have been violated, or you may have been found guilty of a crime you did not commit. In some situations there may have been no choice but to commit a crime, such as in circumstances where you feel your life or another’s was threatened.
Being convicted of a criminal offense is not where it all stops. You may feel that you have been sentenced to 10 or 20 years behind bars or even life, and that you have no other choice but to “do your time.” This is when it is time to consult with a skilled and capable Michigan criminal appeals attorney. Essentially, an appeals court will review the decision of another court to determine if the right decision was made, if the appropriate sentence was handed down, and more. However, this is an extremely complex process and one that is not easily won. This is why you must choose a lawyer who is highly experienced and who understands what it takes to win an appeal. Even then, there is no guarantee – but you must hire a capable and knowledgeable attorney to ensure the best chance of winning.