FAYETTEVILLE, AR (KAIT) - Region 8's Will Carter is in Fayetteville blogging the latest from the Mitchell Johnson trial.
Tuesday, January 29th; 4:50 PM: The jury has reached a verdict in the case. He as been found guilty.
Tuesday, January 29th; 4:00 PM: The jury has begun deliberating the case.
Tuesday, January 29th; 1:20 PM: At this point the prosecution has rested and the defense has just concluded with their final witness.
When I last wrote we were on recess and I told you the current witness was Dustin Wynboon. The reason for the recess was because he had lied on the stand just before the recess when asked if he owned a firearm. Once court reconvened we learned that he was afraid he was violating his right of self incrimination. Once the matter was addressed, the trial continued and Wynboon testified that he indeed did own a firearm.
The next witness on the stand was Michael Lindsey, who was also a friend and coworker. He testified to being around Johnson during a party and had seen Johnson smoke on occassion. Lindsey called himself only a recreational user of drugs and that he had not done any since August of 2007.
Up next was Tony McTutcherson of the ATF task force. He talked about the 9 millimeter pistol and said that it was in violation of the Interstate Commerce Law. Shortly after this testimony the prosecution rested their case.
Just before lunch, the defense brought in their first witness, Clair Carleputt of the Arkansas State Crime lab who said she the reason she filed a revision to the drug report was because "it did not agree with the notes in my report." She said she felt confident that the test she did was accurate, but also agreed that a third sample test that was performed by another agent could be accurate as well.
The defenses next witnesses were two neighbors of Johnson's who lived near him in his Fayetteville apartment complex. Both Gloria Honeycutt and Robert McCoy said Mitchell had never smoked marijuana in front of them and that he had house-sit for them on several occasions.
The final witness was heard just after lunch. This was Michael Scott of the Arkansas Department of Probation. He was Johnson's pre-trial probation officer. He said he had performed three random drug tests on Johnson over the past few months and that all of them had come back negative.
At this point we are still awaiting a few final pieces of evidence to be sorted out before the defense rests and closing arguments can begin. We now believe the jury will probably begin deliberations, and we could see a verdict by the day's end.
We are not entering another recess and as soon as we reconvene I'll give another update with the latest information. Reporting in Fayetteville, Will Carter, Region 8 News.
Tuesday, January 29; 10:05 AM: Good morning everyone. It is now 10:00 a.m. on Tuesday morning. Things are running a little behind this morning in the courtroom. For some reason one of the jurors was late coming in this morning, so court was not able to start until about 9:10 a.m. We are currently sitting in a recess at the moment.
So far this morning the prosecution brought back witness Gary Dallas of the Arkansas State Crime Lab. This testimony has so far brought with it the most confusion in the trial. Presented in evidence this morning are conflicting reports coming from their department. The crime lab was asked to perform tests on the substance removed from Johnson's pocket the night of the arrest. On one report it states that there was 20.2 grams of marijuana, however a revised report showed that there was no controlled substance detected. In the testimony the defense was also trying to prove that the substance in marijuana are also used in medical treatment for things like cancer and glaucoma.
Just after 9:30 this morning the prosecution called it's next witness. The witness is named Dustin Wynboon, and he is a friend of Mitchell Johnson. In his testimony there has been a lot of talk about marijuana use between he, Johnson, and another friend. He testified to attorneys that he met Johnson while they were working together at Wal-Mart, and on at least one occasion they smoked marijuana together in Johnson's car in their employer's parking lot. In cross examination he testified to the defense that he is an avid marijuana smoker and that he had also sold it to other friends. However, when the defense asked if he'd ever seen Johnson with large amounts of marijuana the courtroom seemed to lock up. Moments later we were put into recess as attorneys for both sides meet with Judge Hendren to talk more about where they are going with their cases.
It is at this point that I leave you now. I will be live on Region 8 News Midday with the latest information and will update this just as soon as more information comes down. We are told there is a strong possibility the trial could go to a jury this afternoon, but we are still waiting to see if it will get that far after this morning's delays. Reporting in Fayetteville, Will Carter, Region 8 News.
Tuesday, January 29; 9:45 AM: The trial has just started its second day. It was delayed 40 minutes because a juror was late. There are some Westside Tragedy victims' family members in the audience.
Monday, January 28; 2:00 PM: Just after lunch around 1:15 p.m. court reconvened. At this hour jury selection is complete and the trial is moving into opening arguments. On the jury are five females, seven males, and two male alternates.
Opening statements begin with Clay Folks, an Assistant U.S. District Attorney. He tells the jury that the prosecution is trying to prove Mitchell Johnson was a user of or addicted to a controlled substance while being in possession of a firearm. He talks of the 9 millimeter handgun found as well as 21.2 grams of marijuana that was in Johnson's pocket the night of the arrest. He also said there are witnesses that will show Johnson was a consistent and heavy user of marijuana.
In the defense's opening statements by attorney Jack Schissler, he told jurors that Johnson was a kid with "a dream" for bigger and better things. He said, "it's a case about a journey cut short by a lie." He talked repeatedly of the anonymous phone call to police which led to the eventual arrest and stated that he "doesn't think they (the prosecution) can prove Johnson is a marijuana addict."
After opening statements the prosecution called the first witness around 1:30p.m. This witness is still on the stand as I write. The witness is Detective Steven Hulsey of the Washington County Sheriff's Department. He spoke of how they received the anonymous call and after doing some verification set up a surveilance of Johnson's residence. In the call the woman told him that Johnson had over 100 pounds of marijuana and was in possession of several firearms. Hulsey goes on to testify that they pulled over Johnson and Trammel around 7:00p.m. that night after the blue and white Econoline van crossed the white line repeatedly. During the stop he said he "could smell the odor of marijuana coming from the vehicle." Hulsey testified that he talked with Johnson and that he agreed to sign a consent to search the vehicle. That consent was entered into evidence. He goes on to talk about the 9 millimeter gun and the 20 grams of marijuana that was taken from Johnson's pocket. At this point the jury is now viewing the police dash cam footage that we showed you on the air last week.
Currently Johnson is sitting at the table with his attorneys and is also watching the video. Throughout the morning he has appeared confident, although he hasn't really been talkative to his attorneys. He's been mostly quiet, just sitting and taking everything in.
Cross examination of Detective Hulsey is expected in a little while, and as anything new happens, I'll bring you the latest. Reporting in Fayetteville, Will Carter, Region 8 News.
Monday, January 28; Noon: A jury has been seated.
Monday, January 28; 11:00 AM: The list of potential jurors still hasn't gotten any shorter as the search for 12 continues. As I mentioned earlier there are about 100 people sitting in the jury selection pool at this time. For the last two hours Judge Jimm Larry Hendren has been questioning the group as a whole and on an individual basis. His biggest question was whether or not the potential jurors knew anything of the case or had heard anything about Mitchell Johnson through any forms of the media. He went on to tell jurors, "What we decide is based only on evidence." He also asked jurors if they would be able to put aside anything they have heard or any relationships that they might have with witnesses or the defendant in order to make an unbiased decision that was based purely on the prosecution's evidence. Judge Hendren noted that "every trial is different." Both the prosecution and defense presented jurors with a list of witness names that neared 20 possible witnesses. Other questions asked of the pool by attorneys were whether or not they had any problems with the ATF, whether or not they believed in the right to control the possession of a firearm or marijuana. The question that got the biggest reaction was when potential jurors were asked how many of them owned firearms. At that point a sea of hands went up, noting nearly everyone in the pool having a firearm.
Throughout the questioning Mitchell Johnson sat at the defense table in a casual suit. His hair is still long and he is wearing glasses. He looks very similar to the video that was shown of his deposition earlier last year. He seems to be attentive with what's going on, taking his own notes, but there hasn't been much exchange between he and his attorney Jack Shissler.
Just before 11:00 this morning the judge paused to talk to a few of the potential jurors on the side. It is at this point where I leave this blog. I will bring you more later in the day as things continue to unfold inside the courtroom. Reporting from Fayetteville, Will Carter, Region 8 News.
Monday, January 28; 8:20 AM: Good morning everyone. We are inside the the Federal Building now awaiting the start of the trial. Outside the courtroom are dozens of potential jurors. We are told by court officials that the pool currently consists of about 100 possible candidates. Jury selection is expected to start in about ten minutes. We are told it could take several hours or as long as the rest of the day to sift through jurors. Of course this could take a while due to Johnson's past ties to the Westside School Shootings back in 1998.