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Michael Dewayne JOHNSON

 
 
 
 
 

 

 

 

 
 
 
Classification: Murderer
Characteristics: Robbery
Number of victims: 1
Date of murder: September 10, 1995
Date of arrest: 3 days after
Date of birth: May 27, 1977
Victim profile: Jeff Wetterman, 27 (convenience store employee)
Method of murder: Shooting (9 mm pistol)
Location: McLennan County, Texas, USA
Status: Sentenced to death on July 1, 1996. On October 19, 2006 fatally slashing his throat and arm in his death row cell just over 15 hours before he was scheduled to die
 
 
 
 
 
 

 


On May 8, 1996, Michael Dewayne Johnson was sentenced to death for the capital murder of Jeff Wetterman, which occurred in Lorena, Texas, on Sept. 10, 1995.

Around Sept. 9, 1995, David Noel Vest went to Michael Johnson's house. While at the house, Vest saw a 9 mm gun sitting on a table. After Vest returned home, some friends came by in a stolen Cadillac. Vest drove the Cadillac for a while, letting off each passenger in turn until only he was left in the vehicle.

Vest next began heading for his home when he pulled into a parking lot and noticed Johnson talking on a public telephone. Vest motioned for Johnson to get into the car, and the two drove around for a while. They subsequently went back to Johnson's house, and Johnson briefly went inside. Johnson returned to the stolen Cadillac with the 9 mm gun tucked in his waistband.

After one more stop, Vest and Johnson headed to the coast. Around Waco, Vest and Johnson were getting low on gas and decided to "make a gas run." "Making a gas run" was another way of saying they were going to steal some gas by stopping, jumping out and pumping the gas, and then taking off. After switching positions so that Johnson was driving, they approached two different stations, but decided the circumstances were unfavorable at both.

Around 7:00 a.m. on September 10, they drove to a convenience store/gas station and Vest jumped out and started pumping gasoline. As he was doing so, Jeff Wetterman, who had been married just three weeks earlier, came outside and began talking to Vest. Johnson then got out of the car and walked to the rear of the vehicle. Vest asked Johnson whether he had the gun on him and Johnson lifted his shirt to reveal the weapon.

As Vest returned the gas nozzle to the pump, he heard a shot and saw Jeff Wetterman fall. Jeff was shot in the face, the bullet severing his spinal cord. Vest and Johnson got back into the car and sped away. The two then proceeded to Corpus Christi, selling the gun along the way to a truck driver for $35. On their way home later the same day, Johnson sold the gun to a truck driver to get money for gas, drinks and cigarettes.

The day following the murder, Vest saw an account of the murder on TV and told his mother what had happened. Officers who arrived on the scene after the murder, talked to Jeff Wetterman's co-worker who testified that Jeff had gone to the pumps to tend to a customer when she heard a noise that sounded like a shot. When she looked toward the pumps, she saw Jeff sitting on the ground and saw a blond-haired man standing by the passenger door of what she later identified to be a Cadillac. She then saw the man get in the passenger side of the vehicle and the two drove off.

A friend testified that after the crime, he and Johnson were at Vest's house when Johnson told him that Johnson and Vest pulled into a station to get gas when an attendant came out. Johnson said that he shot Jeff Wetterman in the face after he thought Vest had said "shoot."

Although Johnson argued at trial that he had an alibi and was at home at the time of the offense, he admitted to a psychologist who examined him after he was convicted that he was in fact at the gas station when the murder occurred.

 
 

Texas Attorney General

February 24, 2003

Michael Dewayne Johnson Scheduled To Be Executed

AUSTIN - Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott offers the following information on Michael Dewayne Johnson, who is scheduled to be executed after 6 p.m. on Wednesday, Feb. 26, 2003.

On May 8, 1996, Michael Dewayne Johnson was sentenced to death for the capital murder of Jeff Wetterman, which occurred in Lorena, Texas, on Sept. 10, 1995. A summary of the evidence presented at trial follows.

FACTS OF THE CRIME

Around Sept. 9, 1995, David Vest went to Michael Johnson's house. While at the house, Vest saw a 9 mm gun sitting on a table. After Vest returned home, some friends came by in a stolen Cadillac. Vest drove the Cadillac for a while, letting off each passenger in turn until only he was left in the vehicle. Vest next began heading for his home when he pulled into a parking lot and noticed Johnson talking on a public telephone. Vest motioned for Johnson to get into the car, and the two drove around for a while. They subsequently went back to Johnson's house, and Johnson briefly went inside. Johnson returned to the stolen Cadillac with the 9 mm gun tucked in his waistband. After one more stop, Vest and Johnson headed to the coast.

Around Waco, Vest and Johnson were getting low on gas and decided to "make a gas run." "Making a gas run" was another way of saying they were going to steal some gas by stopping, jumping out and pumping the gas, and then taking off. After switching positions so that Johnson was driving, they approached two different stations, but decided the circumstances were unfavorable at both.

Around 7:00 a.m. on September 10, they drove to a convenience store/gas station and Vest jumped out and started pumping gasoline. As he was doing so, Jeff Wetterman, who had been married just three weeks earlier, came outside and began talking to Vest. Johnson then got out of the car and walked to the rear of the vehicle. Vest asked Johnson whether he had the gun on him and Johnson lifted his shirt to reveal the weapon. As Vest returned the gas nozzle to the pump, he heard a shot and saw Wetterman fall. Vest and Johnson got back into the car and sped away. The two then proceeded to Corpus Christi.

On their way home later the same day, Johnson sold the gun to a truck driver to get money for gas, drinks and cigarettes. The day following the murder, Vest saw an account of the murder on TV and told his mother what had happened.

Officers who arrived on the scene after the murder, talked to Wetterman's co-worker, Lois Bean, who testified that Wetterman had gone to the pumps to tend to a customer when Bean heard a noise that sounded like a shot. When she looked toward the pumps, she saw Wetterman sitting on the ground and saw a blond-haired man standing by the passenger door of what she later identified to be a Cadillac. Bean then saw the man get in the passenger side of the vehicle and the two drove off.

After the crime, Larry Reynolds and Johnson were at Vest's house when Johnson told Reynolds that Johnson and Vest pulled into a station to get gas when an attendant came out. Johnson said that he shot Wetterman in the face after he thought Vest had said "shoot."

Although Johnson argued at trial that he had an alibi and was at home at the time of the offense, he admitted to a psychologist who examined him after he was convicted that he was in fact at the gas station when the murder occurred.

PROCEDURAL HISTORY

On Nov. 29, 1995, Johnson was indicted in the 54th Judicial District Court of McLennan County, Texas, for the capital offense of murdering Jeff Wetterman while in the course of committing and attempting to commit robbery. After Johnson pleaded not guilty, a jury found him guilty of the capital offense on May 6, 1996. On May 8, 1996, after a separate punishment hearing, the court assessed Johnson's punishment at death.

The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals affirmed Johnson's conviction and sentence in an unpublished opinion on Sept. 24, 1997. The United States Supreme Court subsequently denied Johnson's petition for writ of certiorari on May 18, 1998.

Johnson then filed a state application for writ of habeas corpus in the trial court. Following a hearing conducted by the trial court, the Court of Criminal Appeals denied the application based on the trial court's findings on March 29, 2000.

On Sept. 13, 2000, Johnson filed a federal habeas petition in the United States District Court for the Western District of Texas, Waco Division. On Dec. 18, 2001, the court entered a judgment denying habeas relief. Johnson then sought permission to appeal from the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit. That court denied Johnson permission to appeal in a published opinion on Sept. 17, 2002. Johnson subsequently petitioned the United States Supreme Court for certiorari review. The petition is currently pending before the Court.

PRIOR CRIMINAL HISTORY

Johnson has no prior criminal convictions.

  


 

Death row inmate commits suicide hours before execution

DallasNews.com

Thursday, October 19, 2006

LIVINGSTON, Texas Facing lethal injection later in the day, condemned Texas prisoner Michael Dewayne Johnson beat the executioner to it Thursday, fatally slashing his throat and arm in his death row cell just over 15 hours before he was scheduled to die.

Johnson, 29, was found in a pool of blood and unresponsive at 2:45 a.m. by officers making routine checks on him every 15 minutes at the Polunsky Unit of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice. Fifteen minutes earlier, he was talking to prison staff and awaiting breakfast.

"He had used some sort of metal blade or razor to cut his right jugular vein and an artery inside his right elbow," prison system spokeswoman Michelle Lyons said. "He had made no indications that he was contemplating suicide."

Words written in blood were on the wall of his cell, but prison officials declined to disclose the nature of the writing because Johnson's death remained under investigation, Lyons said.

Johnson was taken to a hospital in Livingston, a few miles away, where he was pronounced dead about an hour after he was found.

He had been set to die after 6 p.m. Thursday for the 1995 slaying of Jeff Wetterman, 27, gunned down at his family-run gasoline station and convenience store in Lorena, just south of Waco.

Johnson is at least the seventh condemned man in Texas to take his own life since death row reopened in 1974, but no other prisoner has killed himself so close to his scheduled execution time. On Dec. 8, 1999, inmate David Long was executed two days after he tried to overdose on prescription medication.

Authorities were not immediately certain where he would have obtained the piece of metal that had been attached to a small wooden stick, which Lyons described as resembling a Popsicle stick.

It also was unclear if the metal was a razor blade or a metal piece that had been sharpened. Some inmates are allowed to shave but must check out a razor and return it to a corrections officer when they are finished, Lyons said.

Besides the routine 15-minute checks that begin for inmates 36 hours before their scheduled execution, officers on death row in Texas also routinely search the inmate's cell every 72 hours for contraband.

An appeal to block the punishment was in the U.S. Supreme Court, where Johnson's lawyer Greg White was asking justices to reconsider their rejection last week of an earlier appeal. White also said he had worked until 2 a.m. on another round of last-day appeals and had notified state and federal appeals courts they would be filed early Thursday.

"No point in filing that stuff," White said. "It's just sitting in a chair in my office."

White also said he had no indication that Johnson was despondent.

"I've never seen him not in good spirits," the lawyer said. "I'm not trained in those things, but just from a common person's standpoint, we just never had conversation that he was near the end and 'I'm doomed' and any of that kind of stuff."

Crawford Long, an assistant district attorney in McLennan County who prosecuted Johnson, said he also was surprised.

"We were prepared to be handling a last-minute filing with the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals," Long said.

Johnson would have been the 22nd Texas inmate executed this year. The total is the highest in the nation among states with capital punishment.

As part of the usual procedure, he would have been taken about midday Thursday from the Polunsky Unit, where the inmate population includes the state's now 380 condemned men, to the Huntsville Unit's death chamber, about 45 miles to the west.

In an interview with The Associated Press two weeks ago, Johnson said he remained optimistic.

"You never know what the courts are going to do," he said.

Johnson, who as 18 at the time, insisted it was a companion, David Vest, who had gunned down Wetterman in September 1995 after the pair, in a stolen car, fled the store on Interstate 35 about 12 miles south of Waco because they didn't have the $24 to pay for their gas.

"I never even saw the dude," Johnson said. "(Vest) jumped back into the car and we took off. He hollered: 'Go! Go! Go!"'

Vest blamed the shooting on Johnson, took an eight-year prison term in a plea bargain and testified against his friend. Vest is now free.

Johnson was involved with other teenagers in what authorities said was a stolen car ring in Balch Springs when he was arrested for the slaying. Johnson and Vest were heading to Corpus Christi for a day at the beach to celebrate Vest's 17th birthday.

"He unquestionably was guilty," Long said. "He had made admissions to a number of people."

 
 


Michael Dewayne Johnson

 

 

 
 
 
 
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