Christmas Eve killing not self-defence, says crown

| 17/06/2021
Police van outside the courthouse

(CNS): Prosecutors presenting charges against Jashawn Owen Anthony Johnson (21) for the murder of Michael Aaron Bush (22) in the early morning hours of Christmas Eve 2020 have said that the young man intended to kill the victim and was not acting in self-defence. Candia James-Malcolm, the acting director of public prosecutions, told the court that the crown would show he had armed himself with a knife then deliberately sought Bush out following an argument outside a local bar. No reasonable person would have been provoked by such an altercation to act as he did, James said, as she opened the case against him this week.

Depending largely on high quality CCTV footage and corroborating witnesses, the prosecution’s case is that Johnson deliberately intended to kill or at least seriously injure Bush, who received a fatal stab wound to the heart at the Stand plaza parking lot close to the Casa Bar. The two men had engaged in a verbal altercation outside the bar sometime earlier, when Johnson appears to have tried and failed to get into that bar, which has a minimum entry age of 25.

On the CCTV footage, the defendant appears upset and angry before he hurriedly moves away from the area towards the car park. He returns armed with a knife and appears to seek out Bush, who has moved away from the original location. A woman appears to strike Johnson and a struggle ensues between Bush and Johnson, in which Bush is stabbed. Johnson then leaves the area.

Bush was taken to hospital but died on the operating table during an emergency operation to try to save his life.

The case is being heard by Justice Roger Chapple without a jury. The first witness to take the stand confirmed that he was a friend and neighbour of Johnson in the Prospect area. While he was out with two other friends on the evening of 23 December, he had come across Johnson at Da Station, a bar not far from their homes.

He had then given him a ride to Ultra Lounge and then on to Lillie’s nightclub at the Strand. He said the group had split up when they arrived and it was not until the witness came downstairs to smoke that he saw Johnson again. He noticed that he was in an altercation with Bush and others and “everybody was yelling at each other”, but he opted not to get involved.

He confirmed that he knew the murder victim from school but not very well. After seeing the argument, he returned to the party upstairs at Lillie’s. He said he received some calls from Johnson but from inside the club he couldn’t hear anything. Soon afterwards, the DJ suddenly announced that the club was closing as a result of an incident. He then went downstairs, where he again encountered Johnson, who asked if he would take him back to Prospect. He agreed and they, along with another one of his friends, set off for Prospect.

Unaware of the full details of the incident, it was not until he was in the car with Johnson that he realised he might have been involved in whatever had happened at the club.

He said Johnson appeared anxious and hyped as he sat in the back of the car, and suddenly stated, “They made me do it; they made me do it.” The witness said he saw no injuries on Johnson but he admitted to being intoxicated and not really looking at him too closely. They stopped at a gas station on the way home to get food and sodas, but the witness said he still did not see any injuries on Johnson.

According to the crown’s case, later that same day Johnson went to visit his girlfriend and told her he had killed someone. He had no visible injuries.

Two days later, the police arrived at his home to arrest him and saw him run away. Although they chase him, they were unable to catch him. However, a few hours later the defendant, accompanied by a lawyer, turned himself in at the police station. He gave a prepared statement in which he claimed he had been acting in self-defence as the victim had been armed with a weapon in his waistband.

The case continues.

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