Jonathon Johnson was sentenced Tuesday to life in prison with parole eligibility after 23 years for the murder of a man at Ravine Park Village last year, although he told the court he intends to seek a new trial because of newly uncovered evidence.
Johnson, 23, of 1657 Vance St. was convicted by a jury on Oct. 3 of murder, felonious assault, and aggravated robbery, each with a firearms specification, as well as carrying a concealed weapon for the Oct. 5, 2012, murder of Jonathan Morris, 22.
Co-defendants Andrew Goetz, 29, of 614 Earl St. and Chaz Jackson, 28, of 1158 Clark St. testified they went to Ravine Park Village to retrieve some money and drugs that Goetz believed Mr. Morris had stolen from him earlier that night at an East Toledo bar.
Goetz said he struck Mr. Morris in the head with a revolver handed to him by Johnson and that Jackson removed Mr. Morris’ pants to get Goetz’s property back. Both said they were walking away when Johnson shot Mr. Morris.
In court Tuesday, defense attorney Dave Klucas said that just last week he received a copy of a report from a Crime Stopper caller who witnessed the shooting — a report that was not disclosed to the defense before Johnson’s jury trial.
Johnson himself asked the court to delay his sentencing because of the new evidence, but Lucas County Common Pleas Judge Frederick McDonald denied his request, saying he had been convicted for “aiding and abetting” in the robbery and shooting death of Mr. Morris rather than as the one who pulled the trigger.
“I don’t think anything that I've learned about this case and that’s been placed on the record would prevent the court from going forward with sentencing this morning,” the judge said.
Mr. Klucas asked the court to impose the minimal sentence of life in prison with parole eligibility after 15 years plus six years for two gun specifications.
He said Goetz and Jackson entered into plea agreements under which they pleaded guilty only to robbery. Goetz received six years in prison and Jackson was sentenced to four.
Johnson put it this way: “I’d like to say I didn’t have a fair trial,” he told the court. “I am an innocent man. I’m sorry about their son dying, but I didn’t have anything to do with that.”
Tolandra Morris, the victim’s mother, told the court she and her family desperately wanted closure in the death of the young man they called J.J.
“My son was a loving son. He was a loving child,” she said. “J.J. stayed out of trouble. He gave nobody trouble.”
Judge McDonald pointed out that the jury “was instructed that if they found that this defendant participated in any way in these offenses that he was guilty either as a person who pulled the trigger … or as an aider and abettor or a person who was in complicity to anyone who did pull the trigger and cause the death of the victim in this case, Mr. Morris.”
Defense attorney Gretchen DeBacker said afterward that the defense intends to file a motion for a new trial. She said the Crime Stopper caller reported about 30 minutes after the homicide that she had seen Goetz fire the gun.
While she and Mr. Klucas had seen a reference to the tip in a detective’s report, police had been unable to locate the Crime Stopper report until last week, she said.
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