Court Cases

Murderer Johnston Locked Away, Key Tossed! by Pat Gillespie -

Killer gets 4 consecutive life sentences, plus 30 years

1:10 A.M. — Convicted murderer Kemar Johnston was sentenced in five minutes Monday to four consecutive life sentences followed by 30 years in prison. The five-minute proceeding was in stark contrast to his month-long trial and week-long penalty phase in which jurors had to recommend whether Johnston deserved life or death for the beatings, torture and killings of Alexis Sosa, 18, and his nephew Jeffrey, 14. Lee Circuit Judge Thomas Reese – with two of Johnston’s jurors watching from the crowd — said he had little choice but to follow the jury’s sentence recommendation. “While there are some significant aggravating factors, there are many, many mitigating factors,” said Reese, referring to the evidence and testimony presented to sway jurors. “Under these circumstances, it would only be appropriate to give great weight to the jury’s recommendation of a life sentence.”

Johnston, 23, was convicted Jan. 29 of six charges – two counts each of first-degree murder, kidnapping and aggravated battery with a deadly weapon. In total, 10 teens and young adults were arrested in connection with the Sosas’ killings. Nine of the defendants either made plea deals or lost at trial. Kenneth Lopez, who also faces the death penalty, is scheduled to go to trial May 17. The Sosas were beaten and tortured in Johnston’s kitchen during his birthday party. The Sosas then were dumped in the back of a car and driven to the North Cape Industrial Park late Oct. 6 and early Oct. 7, 2006. There, they were shot in the trunk of their Lexus sedan.

“Obviously, we thought it was a death penalty case, but the jury made it’s recommendation and the judge had to give that recommendation great weight,” said Assistant State Attorney Marie Doerr. “Four consecutive life sentences plus 30 years is an awfully long sentence.” Johnston said in court he plans to appeal. He has 30 days to do so. His attorney David Brener said his client is thankful he won’t be put to death by lethal injection. “Kemar is very pleased and very happy that he’s not going to Death Row,” Brener said. “I think he was aware that there were really only two options in this case.” After Johnston’s sentencing, co-defendant Paul Nunes was in court, where his attorney Melodee Smith told Reese she isn’t yet sure if she is ready to continue with his request to withdraw his plea agreement. Nunes agreed to spend 40 years in prison in exchange for his testimony, but in December, he said he wanted to get out of his plea deal, saying he was pressured into it.

“There is some sort of misunderstanding, but I still want to discuss with Mr. Nunes and his mom whether or not that misunderstanding means that we shouldn’t keep the plea,” she said.

Reese told her to schedule a hearing for the week of April 5.