ChesterNewMatterFall2017 - 27

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Under probing questioning, a visibly anxious Pierce became
scared and then voluble as he filled in details of what he
knew. He recalled Bobby Joe Harrington telling him how they
carefully killed Cotter, while Johnson smiled and nodded in
agreement with what Harrington recounted. Johnson's nod
was a perfect adoptive admission of complicity and guilt for
evidentiary purposes at trial.

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The three were arrested. Bobby Joe Harrington and Will
Johnson were charged with first degree murder and the special
circumstance of lying in wait, and Jacob Pierce with being
an accessory after the fact. To avoid the maximum state
prison time as an accessory, Pierce agreed to a plea bargain in
return for his testimony against his friends. Self-preservation
trumped friendship.
Due to Aranda/Bruton evidentiary problems involving
interrogation statements implicating each other, Harrington
and Johnson were tried separately, with Johnson's trial
scheduled first in Judge Carlton's court room. An
unremorseful Harrington refused to testify in Johnson's trial.
Johnson's defense was he acted under the influence of drugs
and did not knowingly help kill Cotter. But his purposeful
conduct that night was a powerful countervailing force that
belied lack of intent and assured a lifetime in prison without
possibility of parole.
As Judge Carlton thought about depravity, the legal concept
of a malignant heart, and studied the jury instructions on
premeditated, first-degree murder with malice aforethought,
he thought he felt the evanescent presence of Dikē meting
out justice, as she shone light onto darkness. Dikē was not
blindfolded, but an ever-vigilant goddess with an avenging
sword, who brought about a day of reckoning to assure Phil
Cotter was not forgotten and evil was vanquished.

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New Matter | 27


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