Trial of man accused in 29-year-old Warner Robins slaying nears end

bpurser@macon.comDecember 4, 2013 

Timothy Johnson

PERRY -- Testimony has ended in the trial of a Warner Robins man accused of a 29-year-old slaying, with closing arguments from prosecution and defense attorneys expected Thursday morning.

Timothy Johnson, 51, chose not to testify in his own defense.

He’s accused of slaying 24-year-old store clerk Taressa Stanley during a robbery of the Kwickie convenience store at the corner of Wellborn Road and Wall Street in Warner Robins in September 1984. He was 22.

Johnson pleaded guilty to the slaying in December 1984. The state Supreme Court overturned the conviction in 2006, and he was reindicted in Houston County the same year. Jurors are not allowed to hear anything related to the history of the case.

Wednesday, jurors heard from Mac Derrick, a Warner Robins police detective in 1984. He testified that he went to the home of Shirley Brown where he was given a bag of clothes, but Derrick was not allowed to say that the clothes belonged to Johnson. That’s because prosecutors were unable to locate Brown to testify, and that information would be considered hearsay without her testimony.

Over objections of the defense, Derrick testified about a six-minute police interview of Johnson in which Johnson states that Brown was his girlfriend.

Stacey Flynn Morris, Johnson’s defense attorney, objected because the lead detective who conducted the interview is dead, and the recording of the interview is no longer in existence. Judge George Nunn allowed only a limited portion of the interview on the grounds that Derrick was also present and, therefore, could testify.

Francis Jarvis, who was a GBI criminalist in 1984, testified that the bullet police brought to him in 1984 was fired from the revolver police also brought.

But Jarvis said he could not say whether the gun and bullet pictured in photographs he reviewed on the stand were the same ones he matched for Warner Robins police. The photographs were previously introduced by the prosecution. The gun and bullet were previously destroyed.

Kelly Fite, a ballistics expert who was with the GBI in 1984, testified that he would expect gunfire residue to be present for the type of weapon used in the slaying. But upon questioning by prosecutor Clif Woody, Fite said it was “very rare” for a test for residue to come back positive. No gunfire residue was found on Johnson’s hands, according to previous testimony.

Jason Ashford, who was a prosecutor in varied capacities at the district attorney’s office July 1, 2000, to Dec. 31, 2010, testified that he did not recall Deborah Pratt, Stanley’s sister, ever telling him about a “statement of admission” from Johnson but heard from “other sources.”

Pratt testified the previous day that Johnson apologized to her in 1984 for shooting her sister.

Also, the defense has called more than once for a mistrial but has been overruled. Among the numerous objections was that evidence has been destroyed or is missing that prevents the defense from its own examination or challenge. Also witnesses have died or cannot be located, eliminating the ability for Johnson to confront witnesses against him. The defense also argued the state has not presented adequate evidence for trial.

Several members of Johnson’s family and the victim’s family were present in the courtroom Wednesday.

To contact writer Becky Purser, call 256-9559.

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