David DeWayne Johnson

Executed December 19, 2000 by Lethal Injection in Arkansas

85th murderer executed in U.S. in 2000
683rd murderer executed in U.S. since 1976
2nd murderer executed in Arkansas in 2000
23rd murderer executed in Arkansas since 1990

Since 1976
Date of Execution
(Race/Sex/Age at Murder-Execution)
Date of
(Race/Sex/Age at Murder)
Date of
Method of
to Murderer
Date of
Lethal Injection
David Dewayne Johnson

B / M / 27 - 37

Leon Brown

B / M / 67

with 2x4
at DOC

Johnson entered a warehouse and convinced the night watchman, 67 year old Leon Brown, that he needed to use the telephone to get his car out of a ditch nearby. Brown was found later beaten to death with a 2 X 4 in a pool of blood. Johnson's fingerprints were found at the scene and Johnson was in possession of property stolen from the warehouse.

Johnson v. State, 823 S.W.2d 800 (1992).
Johnson v. State, 900 S.W.2d 940 (1995).
Johnson v. State, 823 S.W.2d 800 (1992).
Johnson v. Norris, 121 S.Ct. 205 (2000).
Johnson v. Norris, 207 F.3d 515 (8th Cir. 2000).

Internet Sources:


A man convicted of beating a night watchman to death during a warehouse robbery was executed by injection Tuesday. David Dewayne Johnson, 37, was convicted of killing Leon Brown at the Little Rock Crate and Basket Co. in 1989. Johnson made no final statement. He lost appeals that claimed his lawyer was manic-depressive and incapable of defending an accused murderer. Prosecutors said Johnson's fingerprints were found at the scene and items taken from the crate company were found in Johnson's home. Gov. Mike Huckabee denied Johnson's request for mercy. He also said delaying the execution until after the holiday would have set it closer to Johnson's birthday, Jan. 10.

"This is in many ways an unfortunate case," the U.S. Eighth District Court of Appeals wrote in upholding denial of Johnson's appeal. The court's March ruling acknowledged that Johnson's first lawyer might have been mentally ill during his trial, that he did not press hard to admit certain testimony and that he behaved unprofessionally during jury selection. "We nevertheless are convinced that the governing law requires that this conviction and sentence be upheld," the judges wrote. "We deal in specific facts, not abstractions, and petitioner has failed to show any reasonable likelihood that the outcome of this case would have been different even if his lawyer had conducted himself perfectly," the opinion said.

Black Vault.com

Arkansas man executed for 1989 murder (December 20, 2000)

VARNER, Arkansas (AP) - A man convicted of beating a night watchman to death during a warehouse robbery was executed in Arkansas by injection Tuesday.

David Dewayne Johnson, 37, was convicted of killing Leon Brown at the Little Rock Crate and Basket Co. in 1989. Johnson made no final statement.

He lost appeals that claimed his lawyer was manic-depressive and incapable of defending an accused murderer. Prosecutors said Johnson's fingerprints were found at the scene and items taken from the crate company were found in Johnson's home. Gov. Mike Huckabee denied Johnson's request for mercy. He also said delaying the execution until after the holiday would have set it closer to Johnson's birthday, January 10.

Fight the Death Penalty USA

David Dewayne Johnson, the man who killed a night watchman during a 1989 robbery at Little Rock Crate and Basket Co., was executed Tuesday night. Asked if he had any last words, Johnson, 37, kept his eyes closed and gave a near-imperceptible shake of his head. He was pronounced dead at 9:11 p.m., 10 minutes after the lethal cocktail was administered.

Johnson was sentenced to death in November 1990 for the slaying of 67-year-old Leon Brown, whose battered body was found in a pool of blood near the security office at 7 a.m. on Sept. 2, 1989. Brown had 2 sons, both of whom live out of state. Neither attended the execution. The retiree, who worked as a security guard on weekends, was last seen talking to Johnson at 6 p.m. the night he was killed. Witnesses said Johnson came in and asked Brown if he could use a telephone to call someone to help haul his 1981 Oldsmobile out of a ditch nearby. Brown never made his 7 p.m. rounds, according to the company time clock.

Coworkers describe Brown as a congenial man who always went out of his way to help people. "Brown was always real friendly, you know what I mean?" Lawrence Sloan, a fellow guard, said shortly after Brown's death. Sloan once warned Brown that his good nature "was going to get him in trouble," he said. Johnson was arrested 5 hours after Brown's body was discovered. Stolen goods were later found at his girlfriend's house, according to testimony from his trial.

The attorneys that handled Johnson's appeals contended that the lawyer who represented him during his capital murder trial was incompetent and ill-prepared. The courts rejected these arguments, and a recent request for clemency was denied. uesday's execution was Arkansas' second this year and the 23rd since the state resumed executions in 1990. Christina Riggs, sentenced to die for killing her 2 young children, was put to death on May 2. (source: Arkansas Democrat-Gazette)

Governor Huckabee's Press Release December 19, 2000

Little Rock, Arkansas (December 19, 2000)

Governor Mike Huckabee has denied the clemency request of David Dewayne Johnson. Johnson was convicted of capital murder in 1990. His appeals have been exhausted. "After careful consideration and an exhaustive review of the files, Mr. Johnson's request has been denied," the governor said.

Johnson v. State, 823 S.W.2d 800 (1992) (Direct Appeal).

The appellant was convicted of capital murder and sentenced to death by lethal injection. Upon review of the points assigned as error by the appellant, and upon our own comparative review of other death penalty cases, we affirm the judgment of conviction as well as the sentence imposed. Even though the appellant does not contest the sufficiency of the evidence, we detail the facts for the purpose of making a comparative review of other cases in which we have affirmed the death penalty. We do so to be assured of the evenhandedness of the application of the death penalty. See Collins v. State, 261 Ark. 195, 548 S.W.2d 106 (1977) and Collins v. State, 280 Ark. 312, 657 S.W.2d 546 (1983) (Hickman, J., concurring).

The victim in this case, Leon Brown, a sixty-seven-year-old male, first went to work for Little Rock Crate and Basket Company in 1967, worked there a few years, left, returned in 1982, and continued to work there until he was murdered. During the last few years he worked as a night watchman only on Friday and Saturday nights. On the evening of Saturday, September 2, 1989, while on duty, he wore a black leather John Brown type of police belt and holster to carry his .41 caliber Smith and Wesson pistol, and four (4) empty shell casings. He was known to carry the empty casings, although no one knew the reason. He also carried a watchman's clock, which is a device that looks something like an old- fashioned leather covered circular style canteen with a paper disc on the outside. As he made his rounds, he would stop at designated locations which had permanent station keys and insert one of the keys in his watchman's clock. It would punch a hole in the paper disc. That hole would reflect the time the watchman stopped at that particular station.

Little Rock Crate and Basket Company is located at 1623 East Fourteenth Street, which is at the end of Fourteenth Street in Little Rock. It manufactures fruit and vegetable containers, baskets, and wire bound crates. It consists of warehouses located on both sides of the street, a log yard, and an office which is located at the end of one of the warehouses. The office area, comprised of five (5) offices, is built of concrete blocks and has three (3) steel doors which were locked with dead bolt locks. It has windows which open into a lunchroom which is located at the end of the warehouses. The warehouses are built of corrugated steel, and on September afternoons, it gets hot inside them, so it was not unusual for the workers to open the warehouse doors to cool the building. The doors were so opened at 6:30 on the evening of September 2, 1989. Even so, one would not worry about security because Fourteenth Street at that location is a private street, owned by Little Rock Crate and Basket, with no through traffic, and the business is surrounded by a high chain link fence with barbed wire on top. Leon Brown had a number of friends who worked at Little Rock Crate and Basket Company, and he enjoyed going to work a little early so he could visit with them. His night watchman's shift began at 4 p.m. on the 2nd. He went in early and visited with his friends and then, at work time, began his rounds.

Dudley Swann, the principal stockholder in Little Rock Crate and Basket, received a call from a customer at about 4:30 in the afternoon on the 2nd. The customer wanted some crates delivered immediately, and Swann had to find truck drivers who were willing to work on the Labor Day weekend. He was at his home when he received the customer's call and did not have the drivers' telephone numbers there, so he went to the plant to get the telephone numbers. As he drove up to the company office area at about 6:30 that evening, he saw a white Delta 88 Oldsmobile automobile stuck in the drainage ditch beside the private street. The rear wheels of the car were spinning, and the tires were smoking. Swann parked his car, walked over to the white Oldsmobile, and told the driver he was tearing up his car. He asked the driver to leave and come back the next day to get his car because he did not want the driver on the premises after dark. Swann later identified appellant as the driver of the white Oldsmobile.

Swann went into the building with the offices and there saw Leon Brown on duty. He told Brown about the white Oldsmobile and stated that he had asked the driver to leave and come back the next day to get his car. Swann went into his office and, over about a fifteen-minute period, got the telephone numbers. He left the office area and went into the lunchroom area and again saw Brown. He asked Brown if the driver had left, and Brown motioned toward a pay telephone located on the wall. Swann looked there and saw the appellant. He went over to him and said, "I thought I asked you to walk on out." The appellant replied, "Yes sir, I am in just a moment. I need to make one or two telephone calls to try to find some friends but they're all at work." Brown told Swann, "Don't worry about anything. Everything's all right." Swann made a note of the license plate number on the white Oldsmobile and left at 6:50 p.m.

The next morning, Sunday, the 3rd, at 7:15, George Wood, another part-time watchman, came to Little Rock Crate and Basket Company to check on Brown, as he usually did. He stood outside and called out for Leon Brown. There was no response and he waited ten (10) or fifteen (15) minutes for Brown to complete one of his rounds, but Brown did not appear. By then, Lawrence Sloan had come to work the day watch, and after about fifteen (15) minutes more, the two of them decided to go in the building. The gate was locked, but they went around to one of the doors that had been left open to cool the building the evening before. Just inside the building, in the lunchroom area, where Swann had last seen the appellant and Brown, they saw Brown's body. Lawrence Sloan's initial response graphically described the scene: "Ooh, somebody done beat Leon's brains out." Leon Brown's motionless body was lying face-down in a large pool of blood. He had been bludgeoned to death with a piece of 2" x 4" board that was found near his body. Three (3) of the blows to his head were made with such force that his skull was crushed, part of it was dislodged and rammed into his brain, and his brain was crushed. The medical examiner estimated that the blows to the head were so forceful that 300 to 400 pounds of pressure per square inch had been inflicted on his skull. An image of the extent of the damage to the victim's skull is created by the fact that upon arriving at the scene experienced detectives thought the victim had been shot in the head. His false teeth were found six feet away from his head, and his glasses were found past his feet.

The vending machines in the lunchroom area had been turned over and broken into. The windows into the office area had been forced open and the offices had been entered. Papers had been strewn about, desk drawers had been opened, and the pay telephone had been torn off the wall. Among the missing items were a typewriter, a Sharp brand calculator, two (2) cameras, tools, three (3) pistols, a fountain pen, a briefcase, a television set, three (3) Motorola brand handheld radios, and a battery charger.

The police were called; they quickly responded and immediately began their investigation. Among their procedures, officer Todd Vint was assigned to watch the white Delta 88 Oldsmobile automobile that was still stuck in the ditch. At about 11 o'clock that morning, the 3rd, a blue and white pickup stopped beside the white Oldsmobile, and three (3) people got out and began to try to get the Oldsmobile out of the ditch. The three (3) were Terrie Dickerson; her father, Elmer Richardson; and the appellant. Dudley Swann saw them and told officer Vint that appellant was the man he had seen the evening before, first trying to get the car out of the ditch and then later inside the building.

Police work developed many additional facts which were subsequently proven at trial. Steve Rowell told the police he was the manager of Lucky's Seafood in Little Rock and that appellant worked there and was supposed to report for work at either 4:00 or 5:00 p.m. on the 2nd but did not do so. At a few minutes after 7:00 p.m. on the 2nd, the Appellant had called Rowell and told him that he could not come to work because he was in jail. In fact, he was not in jail, and at that time, the police were not looking for him. Robert Sanders told the police that he saw a low-slung black car parked in front of Little Rock Crate and Basket Company a little after 9:00 on the night of the 2nd.

Terrie Dickerson told the police that, at about 11:00 on the morning of the 2nd, before the murder, the appellant came to her house and told her that his car was out of gasoline. He asked to borrow her car. She stated that he owned a low-slung black Oldsmobile Cutlass automobile. She loaned him her white Oldsmobile Delta 88. He left in her car, came back about 2:30 that afternoon, and left again in her car at about 2:45. She did not see him again until about 9:00 that night, the 2nd, when he returned on foot and told her that the police had been chasing him and that he had gotten her car stuck in a ditch. In fact, the police were not chasing him. He left her house afoot, but later came back in his low-slung black car, and brought into her house three (3) Motorola brand handheld radios and a Sharp brand calculator. Later, she went with him when he drove his black car to Priscilla Marshall's house. At that time she saw some guns and tools in his car. He took the guns and tools into Priscilla's house. The next morning, September 3, Terrie and the appellant went to the home of Terrie's father, Elmer Richardson. They asked him to drive them to the Little Rock Crate and Basket Company so they could get Terrie's white Oldsmobile out of the ditch. As they drove up in his pickup truck, they were spotted by Officer Vint; appellant was identified by Dudley Swann and was arrested by the police. Subsequently, the radios and calculator were recovered from Terrie's house. They were identified as part of the property taken from the Little Rock Crate and Basket Company.

Priscilla Marshall told the police that the appellant came to her house on the morning of the 3rd, told her that his girlfriend was moving to North Little Rock, and said he needed to store some guns and tools. From her house the police later recovered the battery charger, a .38 caliber pistol, a Magnavox brand television set, cameras, tools, a fountain pen, and Leon Brown's .41 caliber Smith and Wesson revolver. Each of the items was identified as property taken from Little Rock Crate and Basket. Connie Manuel testified that the appellant came to her house at about 10:00 on the night of the 2nd, remained a few minutes, left, and came back between midnight and 1:00 a.m. on the 3rd. At that time, he washed his clothes and took a bath. He spent the rest of the night with her. Her mother, Luella Shavis, gave the washed clothes, including his tennis shoes, to the police. A police officer, Jack Matlock, found one of appellant's palm prints on the coin box which had been ripped out of the soft drink vending machine in the lunchroom area, and removed one of his fingerprints from the inside of an office window. Both prints were positively identified as being appellant's. Appellant's tennis shoes, which had been recovered from Luella Shavis, had human blood on them, but it was not in sufficient quantity to type. Hair samples found on the 2" x 4" board were compatible with the hair of Leon Brown. The paper disc from the watchman's clock reflected that Leon Brown did not make his round through the building at 7:00 p.m. on September 2.

The appellant did not testify at trial. One defense witness, Ella Mae Richardson, testified at the guilt phase of the trial that the appellant phoned her at 5:00 or 5:30 p.m. on the 2nd, and another witness, public defender Llewellyn J. Marczuk, testified that detective Mark Stafford told him that the appellant might not have committed the crime alone. The detective denied making the statement. The other defense witness took the Fifth Amendment.

After hearing the above testimony, the jury unanimously found the appellant guilty of capital murder. The punishment phase of the trial was then held, and the jury found one aggravating circumstance, that the murder was committed for pecuniary gain, and one mitigating circumstance, that the appellant was a model prisoner and could conform to prison life and be a productive member of the prison society. The jury weighed the two and unanimously determined beyond a reasonable doubt that the aggravating circumstance outweighed the mitigating circumstance and determined that appellant should be sentenced to death by lethal injection. Pursuant to Ark.Code Ann. 5-4-603(a), the jury is required to return written findings. For some unknown reason, the record contains only part of the required written findings, but that has not caused us any difficulty in reviewing the matter since the record reflects that the jury foreman read the findings aloud and each juror stated aloud that the foreman had correctly stated his or her individual finding.

In summary, the proof is overwhelming that appellant savagely murdered Leon Brown for pecuniary gain.