Case Acquitted: Witness Testifies Argument was ‘Worse Than Fighting Words’ in Funeral shooting

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This case was acquitted on Dec. 1, 2023.

On Nov. 28, a witness testified that he does not know where the first gunfire came from in a non-fatal shooting trial in front of DC Superior Court Judge Jason Park. 

Saphire 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 in a parking lot 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. 

The first witness was Johnson’s younger cousin who was present during the incident. The prosecution began by asking Johnson’s cousin if he had unrelated charges in another case and that he was not promised anything besides immunity for his testimony in this case.

Johnson’s cousin admitted he was under the influence of several drugs the day of the incident and just remembers he was “trying to stop her [Johnson] from causing more harm” when he ran after Johnson in the parking lot and punched her in the back of the head.

.According to the witness, he saw Johnson with the gun pointed towards him and he ran away.

He said he did not see anyone else with a gun that day after the funeral and did not hear Johnson threatened.

During cross-examination, the defense argued the witness was intoxicated and that he didn’t know what the argument was about between Johnson and her family members. 

The defense said, “You don’t remember Saphire’s being threatened” and that Johnson’s cousin did not see her holding a gun during the argument in the parking lot.

Varsha Govindaraju and Christen Philips, Johnson’s defense attorneys, asked the witness about his previous charges of carrying a firearm without a license and his pending armed robbery case . The defense followed up that Johnson’s cousin has a reason to get on the good-side of the prosecution.

The defense then questioned the witness about his punching Johnson in the back of the head.

The witness said he does not remember a lot of that day because he “was high” and does not know where the first shots came from.

During redirect, the prosecution asked about the tone of the argument in the parking lot and he said they sounded angry and it sounded “worse than fighting words”. The prosecution also argued that the witness did not signal for anyone to come over to help him after he punched Johnson.

The defense called on two investigators from the Public Defender’s Service (PDS) to recreate the crime scene. The photos from the parking lot were presented to the jury, which prosecutors argue did not show where Johnson parked the day of the incident.

The trial will resume on Nov 29.

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