Testimony Begins in Johnson Weapons Trial

FAYETTEVILLE, AR (AP/KAIT) - A federal prosecutor told a jury today that evidence would show Mitchell Johnson was in possession of about 21 grams of marijuana when sheriff's deputies pulled over the van he was riding in on New Year's day, 2007.

Johnson, now 23, had served time until August 2005 for helping kill four students and a teacher during a 1998 ambush at Westside Middle School near Jonesboro.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Clay Fowlkes says the marijuana plus the fact that Johnson was in possession of a firearm made him guilty of a weapons charge.  Fowlkes said other witnesses would testify they saw Johnson smoke marijuana.

Johnson is charged with one count of possession of a firearm while either a user or addicted to a controlled substance.  He faces a maximum penalty of ten years in prison and a $250,000 fine if convicted.

Johnson lawyer John B. Schisler says deputies relied on a suspect anonymous tip that Johnson had 1,000 pounds of marijuana with him when he was pulled over.  Johnson and his friend Justin Trammel were on their way to California.

The jury was selected this morning, and opening statements were this afternoon.  Prosecutors called sheriff's deputies as their first witness to describe the arrest.

The trial is scheduled to last through tomorrow.

Region 8 News Reporter Will Carter is in Fayetteville covering the trial for KAIT.

(The Associated Press contributed to this report.)