State of Tennessee v. Nickolus L. Johnson

Date / Time

Lower Court Summary

A Sullivan County jury convicted the Defendant, Nickolus L. Johnson, of premeditated first degree murder, see Tenn. Code Ann. § 39-13-202(a)(1) (2006), for the shooting death of Officer Mark Vance of the Bristol Police Department. Following penalty phase proceedings, the jury found the presence of the following two aggravating circumstances: (1) that thedefendant previously had been convicted of one or more felonies whose statutory elements involved the use of violence to the person; and (2) that the defendant knew or should have known when he committed the murder that the victim was a law enforcement officer engaged in the performance of his official duties. See Tenn. Code Ann. § 39-13-204(i)(2), (9) (2006). After finding that these aggravating circumstances outweighed any mitigating factors presented by the defense, the jury sentenced the Defendant to death. See Tenn. Code Ann. § 39-13-204(g)(1) (2006). In this appeal, the Defendant challenges both his conviction and accompanying death sentence. He raises the following issues for our review: (1) whether the evidence presented during the guilt phase was sufficient to support his conviction; (2) whether Tennessee’s death penalty statute violates article I, section 19 of the Tennessee Constitution; (3) whether the exclusion of jurors from the jury based on their views on the death penalty violates article I, sections 6 and 19 of the Tennessee Constitution; (4) whether the trial court erred in admitting into evidence the videotape of the Defendant taken in Officer Graham’s patrol car immediately following the Defendant’s arrest; (5) whether the trial court erred in failing to require defense counsel to present mental health mitigation evidence despite the Defendant’s objection to the presentation of such evidence; (6) whether individual and cumulative instances of prosecutorial misconduct during closing argument at the penalty phase denied the Defendant his right to a fair trial and should have resulted in the trial court declaring a mistrial; (7) whether the trial court erred in denying defense counsel’s requests for special jury instructions during the penalty phase in response to the prosecutor’s assertion during closing that the Defendant had failed to express remorse; (8) whether the trial court erred in denying the Defendant’s oral motion for a change of venue based on the effect pretrial publicity in the case had on potential jurors; (9) whether the trial court erred in denying defense counsel’s request for authorization of funds with which to hire an expert to support the claim that pretrial publicity in the case required a change of venue in order to protect the Defendant’s right to a fair trial; and (10) whether the trial court erred in denying defense counsel’s request for additional peremptory challenges during jury selection. Following our review of the record, and our mandatory review of the sentence, see Tenn. Code Ann. § 39-13-206(c)(1) (2006), we affirm the judgments including the sentence of death.

Supreme Court
Eastern Section