Man sentenced to life in prison after guilty plea in 2008 murder

Man sentenced to life in prison after guilty plea in 2008 murder
Attorneys appeared in court on Tuesday for a pre-trial hearing, which ended in a sentencing. (Source: WALB)
Attorneys appeared in court on Tuesday for a pre-trial hearing, which ended in a sentencing. (Source: WALB)
Chief Assistant District Attorney Lewis Lamb said he spoke with the family of the victim prior to negotiating a deal. (Source: WALB)
Chief Assistant District Attorney Lewis Lamb said he spoke with the family of the victim prior to negotiating a deal. (Source: WALB)

LEE CO., GA (WALB) - A Lee County man was sentenced to life in prison after taking a plea deal in a 2008 murder.

But a fire at the home of the court reporter destroyed all the files from the original case.

The Supreme Court of Georgia ruled the loss of the transcripts would not grant Johnson a fair opportunity to appeal.

Prosecutors said Johnson stabbed the mother of three more than 50 times at her Winding Way apartment in February 2008.

MORE ON JOHNSON'S CASE:
+Craig Johnson murder trial to begin
+Lee Co. murderer goes to Supreme Court for new trial
+Convicted Lee Co. killer to get
new trial next month

"I think life in prison is an appropriate sentence," said Lee County Judge Jimmie Brown to Johnson.

In doing so, tears ran down Johnson's face. It was the first time he showed visible tears during the hearing. Prior to that, he sat hunched in his chair with his eyes on the table in front of him.

"Sir, you've devastated two families by what you've done," continued Brown.

On Tuesday Johnson pleaded guilty to several charges including malice murder, aggravated assault, aggravated battery and financial transaction.

"Are you, in fact, guilty of the charges?," Judge Brown asked Johnson. Johnson then responded guilty to each individual charge.

Johnson's plea was part of a deal the defense made with prosecutors, something Chief Assistant District Attorney Lewis Lamb said would help the family emotionally.

"This was brutal on the family to go through the first time," explained Lamb. "It was equally brutal when they found out there was going to be a re-trial."

In 2009, Johnson was sentenced to life plus two years consecutively in prison. Lamb said he believes he had enough evidence in a new trial to give Johnson an even harsher punishment.

Part of the deal with the state was that prosecutors wouldn't push for a harsher sentence than he was originally given.

When Judge Brown discussed Johnson's sentence with him, he added his own thoughts for Johnson to think about as he walked away from the victims family for the last time.

"You can turn around and see one family that you've shattered and you can turn around in the other direction," Judge Brown said looking at Johnson's mom. "How do you think she's feeling knowing you're behind bars and will be for the rest of your life?"

Johnson had been incarcerated since his initial arrest in March of 2008.

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