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Former CHP officer sentenced for murder; denied new trial

March 9, 2012 12:00:00 AM PST
The judge called the case tragic. Tomiekia Johnson had lived more than a model life before the crime and was an accomplished CHP officer. But now, she's headed to prison for the murder of her husband.

Johnson laid her head on the desk as Judge Robert Perry sentenced her to 50 years to life in prison on Friday for the off-duty shooting of Marcus Lemons in Compton in February 2009. The pronouncement stirred an emotional outburst from her family.

"There is no way she would just take somebody's life. The girl loved life herself, so there's no way she would do that," said father Don Johnson after the sentencing hearing.

Before sentencing, her attorney requested a new trial, saying the jury had not understood the evidence. But Perry denied the motion, saying the evidence supported the first-degree murder verdict.

Johnson, a CHP officer at the time, had reported the shooting, but said she shot him in self defense after he became physically abusive during an argument.

Detectives doubted her story and arrested her last January. Prosecutors said Johnson shot Lemons near a 91 Freeway off-ramp, then drove to her parents' home in Compton with her husband's body in the passenger seat.

The trial revealed a turbulent marriage and problems of domestic violence. Johnson's family says the couple kept their problems a secret. The parents said they only learned of the difficulties during the trial.

"The secret is that he was abusive. They know that he had a problem, and they did not share that. My daughter didn't share it with us, I wish she had," said mother Patricia Johnson.

But Lemon's supporters say that they were not aware of the couple's domestic-violence issues.

"We loved Marcus, and as Detective Aguilera says, they interviewed hundreds of people. They couldn't find one person to say a bad word about Marc," said Sherice Lemons, sister-in-law of the victim. "Now this violence, I don't know about that. That was never presented to us."

The defense has 60 days to file papers for an appeal.