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CHP officer found guilty in husband's shooting death

Tomiekia Johnson faces 50 years to life in prison in the 2009 death of her husband, Marcus Lemons. Johnson collapsed after the verdict was read and was taken to L.A. County/USC Hospital.

January 24, 2012|By Richard Winton, Los Angeles Times
  • Former CHP officer Tomiekia Johnson lies on the floor of the courtroom. She collapsed as the jury delivered its guilty verdict.
Former CHP officer Tomiekia Johnson lies on the floor of the courtroom.… (Gary Frfiedman, Los Angeles…)

A former California Highway Patrol officer fell to the floor overcome by emotion in a downtown Los Angeles courtroom Monday as a jury convicted her of murder in the shooting death of her husband.

In a case filled with allegations of anger management and domestic violence, the verdict in the rare prosecution of a law enforcement officer on murder charges proved to be dramatic.

As the guilty verdict was read, veteran CHP Officer Tomiekia Johnson shook, then slid under the table where she had been seated alongside her attorneys. She lay almost motionless as her attorneys tended to her. Court proceedings continued as L.A. County Superior Court Judge Robert Perry polled the jurors to confirm the verdict.

Johnson, 32, could face 50 years to life in prison after a jury of eight men and four women found her guilty on first-degree murder in the death of her husband, Marcus Lemons, 31.

Johnson and her husband were having drinks at a TGI Friday's in Compton on Feb. 21, 2009, when they got into an argument

Prosecutors Natalie Adomian and Stephanie Sparagna presented evidence that on their way home, Johnson put a gun against her husband's head and shot him. She then drove a few miles to her parents' home with the body in the car and called 911.

During the trial, the prosecution put on witnesses who portrayed Johnson as a someone with an aggressive personality and a tendency to drink excessively.

Johnson took the witness stand to testify in her own defense last week. She tearfully recounted the night she killed her husband. She said she took the car keys and started driving home, trying to ignore her husband as Lemons continued to yell at her.

"When I continued to ignore him, he reached over and grabbed my neck," she told the jury.

She said she pulled off the 91 Freeway and told him to walk home. He "snatched" the keys out of the ignition, she said, and a struggle over her purse ensued.

"I think he wanted my purse for the gun in the purse," said Johnson, whose defense attorney tried to present her as the victim of domestic violence.

"I was not trying to kill Marcus. I would never try to hurt him," she said, weeping. "He always hit me."

Her testimony was not enough to persuade the jury, which deliberated for more than a day before finding her guilty.

After the verdict, Perry cleared the courtroom.

Paramedics arrived and wheeled Johnson out on an upright gurney past her husband's family and friends. The wails and sobs of her own family echoed through the corridor.

She was remanded to custody, handcuffed to the gurney rail by her left wrist and taken to L.A. County/USC Medical Center.

richard.winton@latimes.com

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