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Murder case goes to jury

A Supreme Court jury will today decide the fate of a man who claims he shot another man to death in self-defence.

Vernal Johnson is on trial for the February 9, 2018 murder of Rico Taylor at the El Rancho Bar on Hutchinson Street.

He has denied the allegation at his trial before Justice Deborah Fraser.

Prosecutors say that Johnson pumped four bullets into Taylor following an argument that began when the men bumped into each other.

The incident and the shooting were captured on the bar’s surveillance system.

In her address to the jury on Thursday, defence lawyer Sonia Timothy said the video did not show him wresting the firearm from Taylor after their initial dispute.

Timothy told the nine-member jury that Johnson was a productive member of society with a clean criminal record. He works as an engineering supervisor at a construction company and is married with three children.

By contrast, Timothy described Taylor, who was known to police, as a “terror on the street”.

She urged the jurors: “Allow Vernal Johnson to continue to be a productive member of our society.”

On the other hand, the prosecutor, Timothy Bailey, said that Johnson killed Taylor without justification, as he was unarmed when he was killed.

He said, “We submit to you, that this video proves our case. This was not a case of self defence. This was a cold, calculated murder. The defendant took on a man who was defenseless and shot him four times.”

Earlier in the trial, Johnson was cleared of two counts of attempted murder after the prosecution failed to produce evidence on those charges.

Johnson was accused of trying to kill Jarvis Joseph and Anfernee Major. 

When Joseph took the witness stand, he said he did not know who shot him, and Major did not testify at the trial.

Johnson’s co-accused, Christopher Blyden, was acquitted of the murder and the attempted murders at the close of the prosecution’s case.

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Artesia Davis

Artesia primarily covers court stories, but she also writes extensively about crime.

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