A former California Highway Patrol officer convicted of first-degree murder for the 2009 shooting death of her husband dropped her head to the defense table on Friday as a judge sentenced her to 50 years to life in prison.
Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Robert J. Perry denied the defense's request for a new trial for Tomiekia Johnson, saying he believed “the evidence strongly supports this verdict” of first-degree murder for killing of Marcus Lavar Lemons.
As Johnson was led out of the courtroom, hands shackled to her waist, supporters yelled, “We love you, Mekia” and “It's an unfair justice system.”
"That girl worked hard,” said Johnson’s mother, Patricia Johnson, outside court. “She has a lot to give to this world."
"She overcame all the obstacles that a black person can overcome," added her father, Don Johnson.
Defense attorney Darryl A. Stallworth told reporters after the hearing that it's been an incredibly emotional journey for Johnson.
“She did not intend to kill her husband,” he said.
Johnson's attorney asked the judge to reduce the charge from murder to manslaughter, which would have carried a shorter prison term.
“I was emotionally disappointed, but intellectually I expected and understood that was the likelihood,” Stallworth said outside court.
Lemons’ family and supporters, meanwhile, fondly remembered him.
"It needs to be remember that Marcus was here, he was loved, and this should not have happened to him,” said Lemons’ sister in law, Cherise Lemons.
A jury of eight men and four women deliberated for a day in January before finding Johnson, 32, guilty of murdering Lemons. She was also found guilty of firing a gun and causing great bodily injury.
Johnson, who was out on bail during the trial, collapsed under the defense table as the verdict was being read and had to be taken out of the courtroom handcuffed to a gurney.
During her trial, Johnson testified in her own defense, maintaining her gun accidentally discharged.
“Did you want to fire that weapon?” Stallworth asked Johnson.
“No,” she responded.
“Did you want to kill your husband?” he asked.
“No,” she said, adding she would “never try to hurt him.”
The shooting took place Feb. 21, 2009, after the couple had quarrelled at a restaurant.
Johnson, who was employed by the CHP at the time but was off-duty, told jurors she pulled off the Riverside (91) Freeway at the Central Avenue offramp after her husband threatened to kill her.
She testified that she told him to get out of her BMW and that he responded by telling her that she could walk home instead and grabbed the keys out of the car's ignition.
She said she began running from the car and then stopped, telling jurors she worried that her husband might get a gun out of her purse and shoot her.
“I saw the gun on the ground. I made the decision to run and get it,” Johnson testified, adding that her husband seemed to be looking for the weapon. “I was scared. I didn't want to die ... When I grabbed it tight, it fired.”
She pushed her husband back into the car, took the car keys from him and drove to her parents' home, where she told her father to call 911, she testified.
Johnson was arrested and charged with murder nearly two years after the shooting. She had been on administrative duty with the CHP prior to her arrest.
Lemons was married to Johnson for about five years. They had a newborn daughter.
Johnson’s parents are taking care of her.
Family members on both sides said they were not aware there was abuse in the relationship as was testified at trial.
City News Service contributed to this report.