Before he was sentenced Friday to 49 years in prison, Grant Johnson spoke at length about how prosecutors vilified him. Then Johnson turned to Ricardo Mandrell Lancaster‘s mother and told her, “I swear to you, I did not kill your son.”
Iris Moore, Lancaster’s mother, stood feet away and pleaded for a merciful sentence for Johnson, a man that she has called her son.
“I have chosen to retain the love I have for him, because I can’t live with hate in my heart,” Moore said. Later she added, “I don’t know what went wrong. I can’t undo it.”
In the early morning of May 31, 2012, Lancaster was found by police in the driver’s seat of an SUV parked on the 800 block of Burns Street Southeast dead from multiple gunshot wounds. Johnson was convicted in October 2013 of first-degree premeditated murder while armed, second-degree murder while armed, armed robbery and related weapons offenses in connection with Lancaster’s death.
“My heart still yearns for what will become of him,” Moore said of Johnson. She asked the court to consider Johnson’s mother as well, saying, “We love each other, we embrace other.”
At trial, Jeremiah Lancaster testified that he thought of Johnson as another brother. After his biological brother Ricardo disappeared in May, he asked Johnson if he knew anything about what happened to his brother. Jeremiah Lancaster testified that Johnson responded, “No, I ain’t seen or talked to Rick in I don’t know how long.”
Prosecutors alleged that Johnson killed his best friend’s little brother over several hundreds of dollars and a cell phone.
On Friday, Jeremiah Lancaster returned to court to address Judge Herbert Dixon and “beg for mercy” for Johnson.
“We forgive him. God ain’t going to let me hang on to this,” Jeremiah Lancaster said. “Both families lose in this situation. We still love him.”
After his mother finished addressing the court, Lancaster crossed to the side of the court and embraced Johnson’s mother in a hug. Then he quietly left the courtroom before the terms of Johnson’s sentence were read.
Johnson said that prosecutors “intentionally made me look like I’m just some unkind sociopath. Making me seem like a monster, that hurt, but what could I do.”
He also noted that he had intended to testify on his own behalf. “I wasn’t afraid of the prosecution crossing me up,” Johnson said.
Before delivering sentencing terms, Judge Dixon said the verdict “was not a surprise.” According to Dixon, the circumstantial evidence in Johnson’s trial was “devastating.”
Johnson’s sentencing documents have been added to the post below.