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Archive for Saturday, August 30, 2008

Precious Doe trial guidelines are set

August 30, 2008

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— Prosecutors announced Friday that they won't seek the death penalty for a man accused of killing a 3-year-old girl once known only as "Precious Doe" and that the case will be heard by a Jackson County jury.

Prosecutors previously had said they planned to seek the death penalty for Harrell Johnson, 28, of Muskogee, Okla.

But Jackson County prosecutor Jim Kanatzar said Friday that the case doesn't meet necessary standards. He also said he made the decision in part because Johnson agreed to withdraw his request for a change of venue, which had been granted earlier. A St. Louis jury was going to be brought to Kansas City to hear the case, which is scheduled to begin Oct. 6.

"I believe it's extremely important for the people of Jackson County, Mo., to sit on the jury and decide this case," Kanatzar said during a news conference Friday.

Johnson is charged with first-degree murder in the 2001 death of Erica Green. If convicted, the only possible sentence would be life in prison without the possibility of parole.

Erica's decapitated body, and later her head, were found in a wooded area of Kansas City. The child was dubbed "Precious Doe" while she remained unidentified until 2005.

Johnson and his wife, Michelle Johnson, 32, were arrested in Muskogee after police received a tip from a family member linking them to the death.

Michelle Johnson pleaded guilty earlier and agreed to testify against her husband.

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