Supreme Court denies convicted killer’s appeal

The Louisiana Supreme Court has decided to not consider an appeal by a 31-year-old Houma man serving life in prison for second-degree murder.

A Terrebonne Parish jury convicted Derrick Nicholas Johnson on an 11-1 vote on Aug. 23, 2007, of the shooting death of 37-year-old Mitchell Hubbard on June 16, 2006.

Johnson, who’s serving a life sentence at the Louisiana State Penitentiary in Angola, has made several unsuccessful attempts over the last 10 years to have his case reconsidered.

Johnson contended that his conviction by a non-unanimous verdict was a violation of his constitutional rights. He also argued that the trial court erred by allowing prosecutors to argue and present evidence to support that his brother instructed him on how to commit a murder, claiming it was hearsay.

The state Supreme Court denied Johnson’s request for a review of the appellate court’s ruling against him.

In its 2008 rejection of Johnson’s appeal, the Louisiana 1st Circuit Court of Appeal pointed out that the Louisiana Constitution allows for a vote of 10-2 to hand down a guilty verdict. The court also noted the hearsay argument that had been presented in Johnson’s brief constituted new ground for objection and could not be raised for the first time on appeal.

Shortly after 5 a.m. on June 16, 2006, Hubbard drove up to the former Pel’s Motel on Lafayette Street, which was once a hotbed for illegal drug activity, prosecutors said. Witnesses said the victim got out of his car and began arguing with Johnson about being sold “bogus” crack cocaine before he was fatally shot in the head.

“He shot this man over $40 worth of crack cocaine,” Assistant District Attorney Jason Lyons said during the trial.

Though there was circumstantial evidence compiled by Lyons that linked Johnson to the shooting, last-minute testimony by a rebuttal witness filled a major gap in the state’s case against the suspect.

Rosemary McKinley, a self-described crack-addict who frequented area, testified that she saw Johnson gun Hubbard down.

“I seen Derrick Johnson pull that gun out of his back pocket and shoot Mitch Hubbard in the middle of his head,” McKinley said during her testimony.

–Staff Writer Dan Copp can be reached at 857-2202 or at Follow him on Twitter@DanVCopp.


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