Johnson defense objects to social media records, N-word usage
The next couple days of testimony in Dominic Johnson's murder trial will center around social media.
Johnson is one of four people accused of shooting and killing 16-year-old David Grunwald in November 2016.
As the second week of Johnson's trial wrapped up, his defense attorney's objections started stacking up. The judge kept the jury out of the room in the afternoon so the attorneys could discuss the reasons for the objections in an open court.
Lyle Stohler objected to all of the state's "gang-related" pictures as well as records collected from social media sites like Facebook and Snapchat. He questioned the authenticity of the records and the lack of notarization.
Johnson's records from Facebook show several conversations where he uses the N-word and an abbreviated version.
"N--" he typed in a message to Erick Almandinger on Nov. 13, 2016.
"What up," Almandinger replied.
Stohler objected to all of those posts, saying they were prejudicial.
"Just because one person might use it to somebody else and not be offended doesn't mean other people won't be offended. It's a highly offensive term," Stohler said.
But state prosecutors said that's how members of the group referred to each other.
"That was a common term they used, both as a greeting and a synonym for friend," Palmer District Attorney Roman Kalytiak said.
Kalytiak said the boys were not using the N-word in a derogatory way.
"It's obvious to the court because Erick Almandinger is a young, white boy," Judge Gregory Heath said. "There doesn't seem to be any racial tone to that at all."
"My client is actually mixed race," Stohler said.
"I understand, but he's the one making the comment, not Mr. Almandinger," Judge Heath responded.
The judge ultimately decided the conversations that included the N-word could be admitted as evidence.
State prosecutors plan to show several pictures of the suspects engaging in "gang-related" activity, like flashing the C sign for Crips. Many of the pictures include Almandinger, but not Johnson.
Stohler objected to all of the photos.
"Once again, this is character evidence, it doesn't go to motive," Stohler said. "There's no way to say they flashed the C sign when David Grunwald was shot."
Kalytiak said the state has to prove it was a group effort to kill Grunwald and cover up the crime and the behavior of other defendants should come into play.
Judge Heath asked the state to remove several photos because they weren't relevant to Johnson's case.
The trial continues Monday, Dec. 10.
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