Tuesday, October 11, 2011

The Impending Execution of Christopher Thomas Johnson: My Analysis

I presented the case against and (best as I could) for Christopher Thomas Johnson here. If you have not read that post and the comments, you are unlikely to understand this post.

I almost didn't open deliberation in Johnson's case, since his guilt is abundantly clear. He not only admitted his guilt, he encouraged his own execution to the extent it seems almost as if he was pursuing suicide by State, as PolyWogg observed.

I am nonetheless pleased with my sagacity in opening the case to deliberation because of the quality of comments that followed.

Anonymous J is unwilling to stand in the way of a self-confessed murderer who volunteers for the needle. Sweet and to the point.

In what seems like a clear cut case, PolyWogg opens her discussion with "I see only five possible things to debate." I suggest readers elsewhere would find nothing to debate.

Simply Anonymous wonders whether the state had proven intent, then ponders whether it would be cruel and unusual punishment to sentence him to life imprisonment when he demanded to be executed. An interesting question.

English Observer wonders about mental health issues, suggesting that the State should have satisfied itself that Johnson was sane before it pursued his execution. (I suspect the State did have him examined, and the psychiatrist indicated Johnson knew right from wrong. That's about all it takes.)

And there was not a single, mindless "Let him fry and good riddance" in the lot.

In every case in which I sit as a juror, whether physically or vicariously, I look for weaknesses in the State's case. They have the burden of proof, even in a case such as this, and I refuse to relieve them of that burden. There are a couple issues in the case that attracted my attention.

Looking at what little timeline information is available, I see the mother went to bed after 1 AM, got up at 9 AM, and saw bruises on the baby. The doctor also noticed bruises on the child's body. Since it takes a while for a bruise to develop, the assault must have occurred at least in part some time before the bruise became obvious. As a juror, I would like to know how long it takes for such bruise to occur. I would also like to know if bruises can form postmortem. As I juror, a possibility hits me. The bruises were caused by an earlier assault.

The ME also said that the baby suffered 85 recent and separate injuries of great variety (and cruelty). How long would it take to inflict so many injuries, I wondered. At one every 6 minutes, that would be 10 per hour. That would take 8.5 hours of intermittent violence. If instead the injuries were inflicted at the furious rate of one every 6 seconds, that would be 8.5 minutes of unrelenting violence. Neither seems likely to me. I wondered a bit more if some of the injuries might have been pre-existing.

Also, Johnson stated that it was the hardest that he ever hit the baby. That sure sounds as if he had hit the baby previously.

At this point, I would suspect that the baby had experienced abuse earlier. I would also suspect that the mother could not have been ignorant of Johnson's violence towards her child. I would suspect there was more to the story than I was being told.

None of my musings, however, made any reasonable case that Christoper Thomas Johnson might be factually innocent of the crime for which he is scheduled to die. I therefore stand mute with respect to the propriety of his execution.