Former officer faces prison

Published 12:00 am Sunday, March 30, 2008


A former White Hall police officer faces sentencing May 4 on a conviction of criminally negligent homicide in Lowndes County Circuit Court.

The guilty verdict came late Thursday following a three-day trial.

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Jessie James Johnson faces a potential penalty of up to a year in prison and a fine of up to $6,000.

Johnson was indicted by a Lowndes County grand jury in June 2007. Attorney General Troy King&8217;s office prosecuted the case.

Lowndes County District Attorney John

Andrews did not prosecute the case because of his office&8217;s working relationship with the town of White Hall, according to the attorney general&8217;s office.

The original indictment was for reckless murder, according to Julian McPhillips, a Montgomery attorney who represents Johnson, from an accident on Oct. 6, 2006, which resulted in the death of Mary Webster.

The jury also rejected the lesser conviction of manslaughter for the negligent homicide, which McPhillips said usually carries a sentence of probation.

King&8217;s office, led by prosecutors Tina Coker and Andrew Arrington, presented evidence that Johnson was in pursuit of two speeding vehicles traveling west on U.S. Highway 80 in White Hall and just past the Lowndes County Interpretative Center. Webster was crossing U.S. 80 at the intersection with County Road 17 when Johnson&8217;s vehicle collided with her car. She was killed instantly.

Evidence presented by King&8217;s office showed that Johnson chose to make the pursuit without using his siren or blue lights.

Johnson was traveling at about 113 mph at the time of the accident. State law requires emergency vehicles to use sirens and lights when exceeding the posted speed limit.

McPhillips said an eyewitness testified Webster shot across the intersection without stopping and a car blocked her view of Johnson&8217;s car.