However, pressure mounted for his release. And his chances brightened in 1994, when then-Circuit Judge Warren B. Duckett, a former Anne Arundel County state's attorney, told the commission that he was convinced that Johnson had earned his freedom.
Freedom came Feb. 1, 1995.
No one could have been more surprised at yesterday's events than Charles J. Ware, a Columbia lawyer who took Johnson under his wing after his release from prison.
"I'm just shocked at this turn of events," said Ware.
Ware said Johnson lived with him for a year after he left prison and worked in his law office. Johnson then entered the University of the District of Columbia's law school and began his second year last fall, Ware said.
"He seemed to be doing fine, he was in good spirits. He has been living on his own in an apartment and I was really proud of him," the lawyer said, adding that Johnson last worked for him in the fall. They had not seen each other since last month.
Johnson dropped out of law school Feb. 20 for financial reasons and because of his father's health problems, said Stephanie Brown, associate dean for administration and finance. "He was doing fine academically," she said. "We were surprised that he withdrew and we are shocked at what has happened today."
Meanwhile, some students were crying in class and were visibly upset at the UDC campus yesterday.
"People are devastated, people are really blown away by it," said Todd Sellers, 27, a third-year law student. "It's just a human tragedy."
Several law students said Johnson always was willing to help fellow students with criminal law and other legal questions. They said he seemed to be making a turnaround in his life, and planned to meet other students today to talk about community service work.
But Blanche Claggett, who lives in Deltona, Fla., said yesterday: "I thank the good Lord. I'm glad it's over. I'm so glad he took his own life and not another police officer's."
Does this bring closure? "I hope we can bury it. We'll never forget our son, we will always have to live with the fact we lost our son, but we won't have to be worried about Johnson anymore," Claggett said.
Swart's mother, Rita Swart of Riverdale, said, "It does bring a closure, period." She declined to be interviewed further.
John A. Bartlett Jr., president of the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 89, which represents Prince George's County police, said: "I think the view of the FOP is very simple. We view any loss of human life as a tragedy. We're just very thankful that no other citizens or police officers were injured today."
Was there a sense that justice was done? "Some of our membership has felt that. Of course, we've seen some cheering," Bartlett said. "The majority of the membership believes in the truth in sentencing, that individuals who are given sentences should serve the full sentence. Of course, Terrence did not serve his full sentence."
Duckett said he was "very distressed" at the news of Johnson's death.
"I thought the guy was going to make it," Duckett said. "I was happy to be able to assist him. But a lot of people are going to say 'Duckett, we told you so.' "
The retired judge said his last contact with Johnson was in 1994. He said he sent Johnson some drawings that an artist did during courtroom proceedings.
"They were quite good of him," Duckett said. "I sent them to him and to [his lawyer]. I kept one for myself and it hangs on the wall of my home."
Pub Date: 2/28/97