Jurors hear closing arguments; deliberations underway
by Staff Reports | March 20, 2014 12:29 pm
Jurors on Friday morning heard closing arguments in the double murder trial of Justin Jermaine Johnson, a 24-year-old Summerton man accused of shooting and killing Maxine Caraway, 59, and Johnson’s 9-month-old son, Jayden.
Deliberations began shortly before noon at the Clarendon County Administration building after Third Circuit Court Judge Jeffrey Young explained to jurors the charges Johnson is facing, which also include attempted murder, first degree burglary, kidnapping and possession of a weapon during the commission of a violent crime.
Assistant Solicitor Chris Durant spoke to jurors first, thanking them for 10 days of service. Durant said Johnson’s malice aforethought could be either express or implied and brought up what Johnson allegedly told ex-girlfriend Kaisha Caraway after he shot their son — “You made me do it.” Durant also noted that Maxine Caraway’s nose was broken; Johnson used a deadly weapon and misled police.
“Your duty in this case is to find the truth,” he said, as jurors need not think about motive. He asked them to render a verdict that “finds justice in this case.”
Public Defender Scott Robinson, representing Johnson, told jurors that the case “has been more than any of us expected,” and urged them to not let emotion factor into their decision. The presumption of innocence, he said, is probably the most important right one has and asked jurors not to make mistakes that law enforcement did.
Law enforcement, Robinson said, immediately zeroed in on Johnson and refused to ponder any other suspects, which tainted the entire process.
“They engaged in a witch hunt,” he said, and ignored or refused to process crucial third party evidence such as another set of bloody footprints and another set of fingerprints on the trunk of Johnson’s car in what was ultimately a “rush to judgment.”
“Mistakes were made and shortcuts were taken,” he said, such as ignoring DNA evidence collected from Maxine Caraway’s fingernails. Robinson showed video clips of Johnson’s interview with investigators Kipp Coker and Mason Moore. Coker asks Johnson if Coker is lying and Johnson said he didn’t know. Coker also tells Johnson his ring will be his “undoing” but noted that SLED investigators only found Johnson’s DNA on it, and not Maxine Caraway’s.
Robinson accused Coker of lying to Johnson and showed snippets of Coker raising his voice to Johnson and telling him he was lying, which he said amounted to a threat.
Robinson also said Johnson was threatened with prison and the death penalty and that ultimately his client was coerced during the 11 hour interview process.
Third Circuit Solicitor Chip Finney spoke last, telling jurors that “not everything was said.” John Caraway’s life was turned upside down on April 6, 2011, he said, and that Kaisha Caraway, who was shot in the shoulder, was the victim and came out “kind of a hero,” for surviving the ordeal.
Finney also reminded jurors that Johson apologized during the interview for wasting investigators’ time. If anybody was lying, it was Johnson, Finney said.
“He led cops on a wild goose chase for several hours,” Finney said, and also reminded jurors that Johnson was covered in blood from “head to toe.”
Johnson’s claims of blaming the shooting on someone named Robert were totally false, Finney said.
“It was Justin Johnson who did it,” he said.
As for collecting DNA evidence from Maxine Caraway, Finney noted that Johnson didn’t sustain “a scratch” on his entire body, so there was no evidence of him struggling with her.
“He was in charge that morning,” Finney said.
The case wasn’t a witch hunt, he said, and noted that the investigators were longtime law enforcement officers.