by Max Brantley
The Arkansas Court of Appeals today upheld a 12-year sentence given to Mitchell Johnson that took into account his juvenile record as one of the shooters responsible for the Westside School massacre in 1998, when he was 13. Johnson, 26, had argued that his juvenile record shouldn't be considered.
Johnson received the sentence after pleading guilty in 2008 to theft of a debit card left at a gas station where he worked and possession of marijuana. He subsequently received an additional six years for using the stolen card to purchase food at a Burger King. He'll serve his state sentences after completing a four-year federal term for possessing a firearm while using drugs.
The Court of Appeals heard Johnson's appeal at the direction of the state Supreme Court. It concluded that Johnson's mother had opened the door to prosecution references to his criminal record when she said during a testimony as a character witness that she thought her son was being persecuted. The decision also said Johnson presented no evidence that he'd been prejudiced by the remarks because he could have received a sentence as long as 30 years.