Jury deliberates penalty for man convicted of killing 3 people at car wash in 2013

The crime

On Sept. 29, 2013, three men were murdered at the Royal Wash Mobile Detailing and Car Wash Service at 393 Ave E in Stafford. The manager, Harvey Simmons, 34; his uncle, Johnny Simmons, 59; and another employee, Donntay Borom, 18 were all killed.

LaMelvin Dewayne Johnson, 41, was charged with capital murder in the killings. Evidence at his trial showed that Harvey Simmons fired Johnson and that Johnson became angry, went to his car and came back with a pistol that he used to kill the three men. Witnesses said that, after shooting all three, Johnson went back to where Harvey Simmons was lying on the ground, stood over him and fired several more shots into his body. 

The trial

Johnson's trial began on Sept. 18, 2019. After about two weeks of testimony and two hours of deliberation, jurors found Johnson guilty of capital murder, and the trial moved into the punishment phase. 

Jurors had two choices: sentence Johnson to death by injection or life in prison with no possibility of parole.

The punishment phase

During the punishment phase of the trial, prosecutors argued that Johnson would continue to be a threat to society if allowed to live, even if he were confined in prison, and deserved the death penalty. 

They introduced his past criminal record, which included arrests for assault, evading arrest and illegal possession of a gun. They also presented Johnson's record during his detention awaiting trial. Johnson was written up for various violations, including fighting with other inmates seven times. The jury was shown a security video of Johnson knocking another inmate to the floor in one of those incidents. 

The defense argued that mitigating circumstances called for giving Johnson life without parole. Those circumstances, it said, included a childhood spent in poverty and chaos during which he often saw his father beat his mother and was beaten himself when he tried to protect his mother. Johnson also had a history of suffering from depression that went untreated until he was jailed awaiting trial, the defense said. 

The sentence

After about a week of hearing testimony in the punishment phase, juror retired for about six hours and returned a sentence of life without parole. They found that Johnson would be a continuing threat to society but that the mitigating circumstances called for the more lenient sentence.