Horace Johnson was found guilty of the murder of his 2-year-old son Cortez Johnson on Thursday. Johnson pleaded not guilty to second-degree murder. Cortez’s mother Keyonda Lumpkins was found guilty of the same charge and was sentenced to 24 years in prison in October.
Johnson looked down at the floor when the guilty verdict was announced and later held his head in his hands. The jury members deliberated for less than an hour before returning their verdict. Johnson did not testify in the trial.
In his statement to the Columbia Police Department, Johnson said he took Cortez and Lumpkins to University Hospital when he realized Cortez was having trouble breathing. Johnson said Lumpkins had whipped Cortez the night before and had tied Cortez’s hands behind his back with a belt contraption.
Johnson claimed in the statement he had been unable to stop Lumpkins from beating Cortez because he was bedridden with a gunshot wound to the leg.
Cortez’s unresponsive body was brought to University Hospital with multiple suspicious injuries, medical personnel testified. The cause of death was blunt force injury to the head, said Dr. Carl Stacy, Boone County’s chief medical examiner.
The jury was instructed to find Johnson guilty of second-degree murder if they found from the evidence, beyond a reasonable doubt, that Cortez was killed as a result of Johnson’s perpetration of first-degree endangering the welfare of a child.
The state did not need to prove Johnson had ever struck Cortez, Boone County Prosecuting Attorney Dan Knight said in his closing statement. They only needed to prove that Johnson had aided Lumpkins in keeping Cortez in a physically harmful environment, Knight said.
“We have proven this case beyond any doubt whatsoever,” Knight said. “Murder cases do not get any stronger than this.”
Public Defender Stephen Wyse, Johnson’s attorney, said there was no evidence Johnson had caused the head injuries which caused Cortez’s death.
“The state wants you to focus on the emotions,” Wyse said.
He asked the jury members to focus on the evidence rather than their feelings about the case or their dislike for Johnson.
Knight displayed photographs of Cortez’s body at the trial, showing multiple burns, cuts and bruises over his body. Some of the injuries were weeks or months old and some were inflicted within the last week, Stacy said.
CPD Detective Joseph Jackson, who interviewed Johnson when he was arrested, said he doubted Johnson had been unable to stop Lumpkins from beating Cortez. Security cameras show Johnson walking through hallways in University Hospital without crutches on the day of Cortez’s death. This evidence showed Johnson was actually able to get out of bed, Jackson said.
Johnson said in his statement he argued with Lumpkins until she agreed to take Cortez to the hospital. He left the hospital a short time later because he did not think Cortez’s condition was serious enough that he needed to stay, Johnson said.
According to a CPD news release, a month later, while Johnson was incarcerated for a parole violation, the prosecutor’s office issued a warrant for his arrest for second-degree murder. A similar warrant was issued for Lumpkins, who was already incarcerated for first-degree child endangerment, the news release stated.
Sunne, S.A. (2009). Johnson found guilty of murdering son. The Maneater, 76(26), Retrieved from http://www.themaneater.com/stories/2009/12/4/johnson-found-guilty-murdering-son/