CHP officer who killed husband recovering after courtroom collapse
A former California Highway Patrol officer who collapsed in court after she was found guilty of murdering her husband was wheeled out of the courtoom on a stretcher and was recovering Monday in a hospital.
Tomiekia Johnson was convicted Monday of murdering Marcus Lemons more than two years ago after a night of drinking in Compton.
As the verdict was read, Johnson collapsed and fell below the table where she was sitting with her attorneys. Her condition was unknown, but paramedics were called and a stretcher was brought to Judge Robert Perry's ninth-floor courtroom, which was cleared. Johnson was handcuffed to the stretcher railing before being removed.
Outside the courtroom, Johnson's mother was sobbing and yelling, and Los Angeles County sheriff's deputies took position to keep the families of the victim and defendant separated.
"I was not trying to kill Marcus. I would never try to hurt him," she said, weeping. "He always hit me."
Johnson and her husband were having drinks at a Friday's restaurant in Compton before they got into an argument, Johnson told the jury. She said she took the car keys and started driving home, "blocking him out" as Lemons continued to yell at her in the car.
"When I continued to ignore him, he reached over and grabbed my neck," she told the jury.
She said she pulled off the 91 Freeway and told him to walk home. He "snatched" the keys out of the ignition, she said, and a struggle over her purse ensued.
"I think he wanted my purse for the gun in the purse," she said, trembling.
Prosecutors argued in court that the slaying was far from an accident. During the trial, witnesses portrayed Johnson as a wife with an aggressive personality and a tendency to drink excessively.
Her husband was described as a peaceful man, a popular barber and a renowned amateur bowler. Forensic evidence and testimony from crime-scene experts showed that Johnson fired an intentional contact shot, prosecutors said.
Lemons' family members, sitting in one corner of the courtroom, looked on as Johnson testified last week. Friends of the victim shook their heads, rolled their eyes and whispered to each other as Johnson answered questions about her tumultuous relationship with her husband.
Johnson faces 50 years to life at sentencing March 9, said Deputy Dist. Atty. Natalie Adomian.
She can receive 25 years to life for the murder conviction and another 25 years to life for use of the gun in the killing. Adomian said the jury deliberated all of Friday and one hour Monday.
-- Richard Winton at L.A. County Superior Court
Photo: Former CHP Officer Tomiekia Johnson lies on the courtroom floor after collapsing as the guilty verdict in her murder trial was read. Credit: Gary Friedman / Los Angeles Times