Case Acquitted: Prosecution Delivers Closing Statements in Non-Fatal Shooting Trial

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This case was acquitted on Dec. 1, 2023.

On Nov. 27, the prosecution in the non-fatal shooting case of Saphire Johnson presented closing arguments in front of DC Superior Court Judge Jason Park

Johnson, 24, is charged with aggravated assault while armed and assault with a dangerous weapon, among other charges, for her alleged involvement in a non-fatal shooting that occurred on Sept. 28 at the 4000 block of Alabama Avenue, SE. 

The shooting occurred outside of Johnson’s grandmother’s church funeral after a dispute between family members. Two people, including Johnson, sustained non-life-threatening injuries during the incident. 

According to the defense, Johnson was acting in self-defense after being attacked by three men, and began shooting after she perceived one of the men to be reaching for a gun. The prosecution argues that Johnson instigated the incident and that the men who attacked her were not carrying guns. 

In their closing arguments, prosecutors explained the meaning of self-defense, saying that Johnson’s actions were not reasonable in comparison to the perceived threat. They also insist that the man she saw reaching for a gun did not have a gun. 

The prosecution disputed that two men involved in the melee had motives to attack Johnson which caused her to shoot first. Defense attorneys said the men exchanged a pair of gloves as a signal to attack Johnson. The prosecution presented video surveillance footage the moment the gloves were exchanged showing there was “no planning” and there was “no signal.” 

The prosecution argued, “If this was pre-orchestrated, then where was the signal?” 

They also focused on the moment that Johnson was punched in the back of the head by one of the men. According to prosecutors, the attack was an attempt to stop Johnson, who was already instigating the incident. 

Prosecution relied on surveillance footage of the incident, which they claim shows that Johnson was angry through her body language. They also point to the fact that the attackers appear to of have a gun, but the defense argues that a gun was about to be pulled when the attacker was obscured from the camera. 

“How do you expect an 18-year-old to react to something he perceived would cause more death at a funeral?” they asked, discussing the man who is seen punching Johnson in surveillance footage.

Johnson was shot herself and the prosecution displayed video of various family members “scrambling frantically” to Johnson during the incident. According to the prosecution, this proves Johnson was the threat because those surrounding her were focused on stopping her, not the alleged attackers, because they “knew she was the real danger.”  

They stated that Johnson “instigated and escalated” the incident and was the first person to reach for a gun that day, and they alleged that Johnson was not “adequately provoked to shoot at the victims.” 

Prosecution said that even if Johnson did feel threatened, her reaction was unreasonable. “You don’t get to use deadly force on a possible threat,” the prosecution argued. They played surveillance footage that showed the moment Johnson began shooting, declaring that she had been angry and using “fighting words”. 

“You can’t say you saw a 300-pound-tiger and it turns out to be an eight-pound-cat,” they argued. 

Prosecution asked that Johnson be found guilty on all charges.

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