I wrote about Sarah Johnson and the death of her parents in December 2003, but I didn't follow the blow-by-blow details as revealed at the trial. The Mountain Express has pretty good coverage. (This should help -- go to Google and enter, ["Sarah Johnson" site: mtexpress.com]).
I lost my stomach for it.
She was convicted of murder today.
Jurors find Idaho teen guilty of murdering her parents Updated March 17, 2005, 9:38 a.m. ET
Sarah Johnson faces life in prison for killing her parents in 2003.
By Emanuella Grinberg
BOISE, Idaho — An Idaho jury found 18-year-old Sarah Johnson guilty Wednesday of two counts of first-degree murder for the shooting deaths of her parents, Alan and Diane Johnson.
The eight women and four men arrived at their verdict after three days of deliberations at the Ada County Courthouse in Boise. Johnson faces life in prison. Fifth District Judge Barry Wood set the sentencing hearing for May 19.
Under Idaho law, she must serve a mandatory minimum of 10 years without the possibility of parole. What she serves beyond that is at the judge's discretion.
Johnson entered the courtroom Wednesday already in tears and appeared to get more emotional in the moments leading up to the verdict.
Matt Johnson, the defendant's 24-year-old brother, who testified against her, buried his face in his hands when the court clerk read the verdict. Other family members, including the defendant's grandfather and aunts, burst into tears.
Most of the jurors were calm while the verdict was read, but the foreperson — the youngest member of the panel — appeared upset.
Blaine County prosecutors said the verdict was bittersweet in light of the circumstances. "Justice was served today, but Diane and Alan Johnson are still gone and the family is faced with the killer being a member of their own family," Blaine County prosecutor Justin Whatcott said. "I don't think this will make them happy or bring them any closure."
Defense attorney Bob Pangburn said he was still convinced of his client's innocence. "Sarah has not admitted to us she did anything, and I still believe she didn't," Pangburn said, adding he would handle Johnson's appeal. Pangburn said he was concerned from the moment the jurors entered the courtroom Wednesday morning. "This morning when the jury came in, they were a little too happy," he said. "I think this jury made up its mind yesterday and went home to sleep on it."
Members of the panel reportedly returned to the jury room after the verdict and cried together. They were escorted out of Ada County Courthouse through a private entrance after deciding they did not want to speak to the media.
Sarah Johnson was arrested on Oct. 30, 2003, seven weeks after her parents were shot dead in their bedroom at around 6:20 a.m. on Sept. 2, 2003.
Blaine County prosecutors alleged that the defendant, who had a rocky relationship with her parents, particularly her mother, shot them at close range with a .264 Winchester Magnum rifle after they forbade her from dating a 19-year-old undocumented Mexican immigrant, Bruno Santos.
"Sarah's parents would do anything to keep her happy, but this thing with Bruno was the first time they said no," Whatcott said. "She wouldn't have it."
Whatcott said he believed crucial evidence against Sarah Johnson came in the form of a pink bathrobe spattered with Diane and Alan Johnson's blood and containing DNA from the defendant, who admitted the robe was hers.
Her lawyers argued there was no physical evidence linking her to the crime, and that blood-spatter patterns in the Johnsons' bedroom were inconsistent with the lack of DNA evidence found on the defendant.
Outside the courthouse Wednesday, family members talked about the verdict.
"It's overwhelming to let it sink in," Diane Johnson's youngest sister, Debbie Davis, said. "We still love her in spite of what she did."
"This is bittersweet. We prayed for a just decision, and this was a just verdict," said Pat Dishman, Diane Johnson's mother. "We still love Sarah very much. But justice had to be served."
Sue Irvin, Alan Johnson's sister, said that even though she expected Sarah Johnson would be found guilty, she was stunned by the verdict.
"Even though we suspected it all along, it became real today," Irvin said. "I hope Sarah can get help. Throughout the trial, parts of her emotions were real, parts were on cue, but today her tears were real. There are no winners here. Just losers."