Court overturns death sentence

January 07, 1998

Maryland's top court overturned the death sentence yesterday of John Clifton Johnson, who killed a Cumberland grocer, but upheld his April 11, 1996, conviction for first-degree murder.

It is the second time in three months that the Court of Appeals has ruled that the mitigating circumstance "youthful age" includes several factors that must be weighed in deciding a death sentence.

Among those issues are the convicted killer's maturity, criminal behavior, work history and home environment. Allegany County Circuit Judge J. Frederick Sharer looked only at chronological age -- Johnson was 19 years and 2 months at the time of the April 19, 1995, slaying -- the seven judges wrote in a 26-page opinion.

The case will be returned to the Circuit Court for a new sentencing hearing.

Johnson was convicting of stabbing Edwin Hartman, 66, to death, leaving a trail of bloody footprints. He is serving a life term for his admitted fatal bludgeoning of Gussie Julia Miller, 79, in 1990.

Pub Date: 1/07/98

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