Posted on October 7, 2008 · Posted in Brain Injury

Date: 10/7/2008 8:19 PM

Associated Press Writer

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) _ The mother of a little girl long known as “Precious Doe” testified Tuesday she knew the injured 3-year-old needed medical attention but that she feared going to jail and instead waited for the child to die.

Testifying in her husband’s first-degree murder trial, Michelle Johnson said she watched Harrell Johnson kick little Erica Green in the head and later helped him dump the girl’s decapitated body in a wooded area of Kansas City.

A police officer found Erica’s naked, headless naked body in April 2001. Lacking an identity, she was known only as “Precious Doe” until 2005, when a community activist received a tip Harrell Johnson’s grandfather in Muskogee, Okla., where the couple lived.

Harrell Johnson’s trial began Monday in Jackson County Circuit Court, and prosecutors completed their presentation Tuesday with Michelle Johnson’s testimony and a videotaped confession by the 29-year-old defendant.

The defense also rested, without calling any witnesses, and closing arguments are expected Wednesday. The defense admits that Harrell Johnson kicked the girl, but contends that the act was not premeditated, as required for a first-degree murder conviction.

Michelle Johnson, 33, who pleaded guilty last year to second-degree murder, spent nearly two hours on the stand Tuesday. She held back tears at times as she described the hours that led up to her daughter’s death.

She testified that Harrell Johnson — her boyfriend at the time — was high on drugs when he kicked Erica at a Kansas City home where they were staying. She said she watched helplessly as her daughter dropped to the floor.

“He just picked up his feet and kicked her on the side of the face. I said, ‘What the (expletive) did you do?’ It shook him out of his high,” Johnson said, rising from the witness chair and lifting her temporarily unshackled foot to demonstrate.

Johnson said she put her daughter in a cold bath hoping to revive her, then placed the unresponsive child on the bedroom floor.

The couple did not seek medical help for the girl for fear of being arrested on outstanding warrants, Michelle Johnson testified.

“We wasn’t going to get it,” she said. “Because we both was on the run from police.”

She said Erica lay on the bedroom floor for what seemed like days, although Harrell Johnson contends it was hours. She said she knew that Erica would die if they didn’t get her to a hospital.

“I was on the floor with her. I was singing her favorite song to her, which was a Barney song,” Michelle Johnson told the jury. “I kissed her. I was asking God to let my daughter live and to take me.”

After Erica took her last breath, the couple waited until night to dispose of the body so that neighbors wouldn’t see them, Michelle Johnson said.

When Harrell Johnson’s grandfather came forward with the tip in 2005, the couple were in custody in Oklahoma on charges unrelated to Erica’s death.

Kansas City detective Danny Phillips testified Tuesday that he and other officers interviewed the Johnsons in Oklahoma and that the couple admitted their role in the child’s death.

In the videotape of Harrell Johnson’s statement to police in 2005, he was emotional as he described how he grabbed Erica by the shoulder and kicked her after she ignored his repeated orders for her to go to bed. He said the girl’s head hit the floor.

Prosecutors contend that the Johnsons committed murder by failing to seek medical help as Erica lay dying. A pediatric neurosurgeon testified Monday that if the couple had quickly sought medical attention for Erica, doctors probably could have reversed the damage.

If convicted of first-degree murder, Harrell Johnson’s only possible sentence would be life in prison without parole. Prosecutors are not seeking the death penalty, partly because Johnson agreed to withdraw his request to have the case moved out of Kansas City.

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press.

About the Author

Attorney Gordon S. Johnson, Jr.
Past Chair Traumatic Brain Injury Litigation Group, American Association of Justice :: 800-992-9447