Charged with killing his best-friend’s little brother in what prosecutors characterized as a flawed drug deal, Grant Johnson on Monday watched as jurors, who have spent nearly three weeks hearing evidence in his murder case, filed out of the courtroom to deliberate his innocence.
It is innocence that his attorney, William Roberts, claims, saying that Johnson is the victim of an investigation that worked backwards, presuming him guilty from the start.
Johnson, 37, is charged with first-degree felony murder while armed, first-degree premeditated murder, armed robbery, and related weapons offenses in connection with Ricardo Lancaster‘s death.
Police found Lancaster on May 31, 2012 around 6:53 a.m. in the driver’s seat of an SUV parked on the 800 block of Burns Street Southeast dead from multiple gunshot wounds. Almost a month later Johnson was arrested and charged in Lancaster’s murder.
Prosecutors claim that Lancaster was going to meet Johnson on Burns Road to exchange $350 for one ounce of marijuana; marijuana Lancaster was retrieving for a friend.
In closing arguments Monday, U.S. Assistant Attorney, Kimberly Nielsen, traced Lancaster’s cell phone log for jurors pointing out that Lancaster and Johnson had nine different phone conversations the two hours leading up to the time of Lancaster’s death, which prosecutors claim was some time around 11:30 p.m. the night before his body was found.
Johnson was a friend of the Lancaster family and was close with Lancaster’s older brother, Jeremiah.
During trial Jeremiah Lancaster told jurors that Johnson was, “like a brother” to him growing up as kids in the same neighborhood. The day he found out his younger brother had been killed he called Johnson because he still hung around the old the neighborhood where his brother was found dead.
When Jeremiah Lancaster asked Johnson if he knew anything about what happened to his brother, Jeremiah Lancaster said Johnson responded, “No, I ain’t seen or talked to Rick in I don’t know how long.”
Nakia Johnson, a DNA specialist, testified at trial that traces of Grant Johnson’s DNA were found on a red Doritos bag found on the passenger seat floor of the car Ricardo Lancaster was found dead in. Grant Johnson’s DNA was also found on the inside passenger door handle of the car, Nakia Johnson said.
Ashley Givens, Johnson’s ex-girlfriend, testified that Johnson lived with her in an apartment and that he paid rent. Givens told jurors that the night Lancaster was killed, Johnson left their place with her daughter between the hours of 11:00 p.m. and midnight, and testified that she didn’t know where they went. When he came back the three took a trip together to a Quality Inn hotel where he gave her money for the following month’s rent.
Roberts argued Monday that there were no eye witnesses and that other suspects were not investigated, calling the prosecution’s case a “haphazard conclusion.”
“They are picking and choosing and weaving together little bits of information while ignoring anything that points in the other direction,” Roberts said.
Jury deliberations are scheduled to continue Tuesday morning.
Megan Arellano contributed to this story