Prosecution is Coercing Witnesses, Defense Says

A team of defense attorneys said a prosecutor was coercing witnesses and obstructing justice in a murder case. Jolonta Little, 26, and Monte Johnson, 21, are charged with conspiracy in a bias-related robbery while armed, a bias-related crime with a firearm, possession of a firearm during a crime of violence and felony murder while armed for a bias-related crime for allegedly shooting 22-year-old Deeniquia Dodds, a transgender woman, on the 200 block of Division Avenue, NE in 2016. During a status hearing on Nov. 15, the defense requested that the case be dismissed due to prejudice. Johnson and Little went to trial in March of 2019. However, a mistrial was declared because the jury was unable to reach a unanimous verdict. Defense attorney, Kevin Irving, said that a previous prosecutor had knowledge that one of the juror’s son was being prosecuted by another prosecutor that worked in the same office. According to Irving, the former prosecutor who was assigned to Little’s case said he talked to the prosecutor assigned to the juror’s son’s case and suggested she be fair in her sentence. The prosecutor was then removed from the case after the first trial in March 2019, and a new prosecutor was assigned. No information was given as to why the prosecutor was removed. “He had a plan to influence the jury, there’s prejudice here, his action taints everything he did in this case,” said Irving. The defense claimed that it was an obstruction of justice and the prosecutor’s actions were intentional. Defense counsel requested that the case be dismissed, or, at least have a hearing where the prosecutor would testify. “It should not have been done, but it is not criminal. It does not affect the jury, there is no evidence the trial was tainted,” said the current prosecutor. DC Superior Court Judge Milton C. Lee said the prior prosecutor’s behavior was not consistent with justice but was consistent with a need to win cases. “When stuff like this happens in your office, nobody knows. Your office has to be looking at it, it’s troubling, that there’s a different standard for the defense because everything is public. If you act like it’s okay it could be replicated,” said Judge Lee. Judge Lee said he would make a final judgement after the prosecution and defense filed further arguments. Another jury trial is set on Feb. 25 2020. This article was written by Ellery Groth.