Defense: Shooting impulsive

Experts say drugs, alcohol, family history contributed to Timothy Johnson's mental state

Staff WriterAugust 11, 2005 

Three defense experts called Wednesday in the Timothy Wayne Johnson trial explained how he fought his younger brother's battles because he had an inflated view of his role as Tony Johnson's hero.

Both Tarboro brothers are charged with two counts of first-degree murder and face the death penalty if convicted.

Johnson shot Chicago businessman Kevin McCann and 2nd Lt. Brett Harman, a Marine Corps junior officer stationed at Camp Lejeune, Sept 4. The shootings happened during a confrontation between the Johnson brothers and the victims in a tailgate area near Carter-Finley Stadium before last year's N.C State University football season opener.

In the second day of defense testimony, use-of-force expert Dave Cloutier explained that decisions to use force can be influenced by drugs, alcohol or fear.

Both Harman and McCann, who walked up to the brothers' tailgate area, had been wrestlers in high school and college. Some of the defensive tactics Cloutier described -- crouching, posturing, positioning -- are some of the same techniques used in wrestling.

During a fight that lasted just seconds, Harman tackled Tony Johnson, who had been starting fights all day. Timothy Johnson fired at Harman. McCann was shot next after he grabbed Timothy Johnson in a bear hug.

In Cloutier's opinion, multiple individuals in the victims' group, profanity, boisterous conduct, perceived physical ability and the confining environment, triggered Timothy Johnson's use of force.

During cross-examination, prosecutor Jeff Cruden suggested that Timothy Johnson didn't tell Cloutier the truth about the day of the shooting and that Johnson himself exhibited the pre-attack queues Cloutier discussed.

Prosecutors must show Johnson's intent, premeditation and deliberation for jurors to convict him of first-degree murder.

The families of Harman and McCann appeared unmoved by an entire day of hearing defense witnesses testify about Johnson's problems. The witnesses testified that Timothy Johnson was impaired, was afraid for himself and his brother at the time of the shootings, and had expressed remorse and empathy for the victims and their families.

Forensic psychologist Roger B. Moore Jr. testified that he didn't believe that Timothy Johnson was able to form a specific intent to kill either victim and that Johnson shot to stop Harman's tussle with Tony Johnson, 21. Moore said he thinks Timothy Johnson's shooting of McCann was impulsive.

Moore also said that Johnson's ongoing marijuana use and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder undermined his "flexibility of problem-solving" and that his alcohol intoxication "interfered with the clarity of his thought processes and decreased his impulse control."

In cross-examination, prosecutor Susan Spurlin tried to pick apart Moore's testimony. With her questions, she reiterated that Moore relied on Johnson's version of what happened Sept. 4. She also pointed out that on a personality test, Johnson scored higher on aggression and repressed anger indicators.

Dr. Moira Artigues, a forensic psychiatrist, met with Timothy Johnson, 23, five times and spent just shy of 10 hours with him.

Artigues said Ann and Tommy Johnsons' support of their oldest son, Mitch, who used drugs and stole from the family when Timothy and Tony were young, taught Timothy Johnson about infinite loyalty.

"The Johnson parents stayed loyal to Mitch no matter what," Artigues said. "I told you that Ann said to me that he destroyed them emotionally, financially and physically. And yet they stuck by him, would not put him out on the street, would not set limits for him. I think that Tim learned that you are loyal no matter what. Tim was fiercely loyal to Tony even when Tony exhibited some very bad behavior."

The trial could end next week. The defense expects Artigues, who returns to the stand at 9:30 a.m. today, to be their last witness.

Prosecutors said they will call at least one rebuttal witness after the defense rests.

Staff writer Cindy George can be reached at 829-4656 or cgeorge@newsobserver.com.

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