Arapahoe County prosecutors plan to seek the death penalty for Brandon Johnson, who is accused of stabbing his six-year-old son to death after sexually assaulting his ex-girlfriend in the same home.
The Denver Post reports that Arapahoe County District Attorney George Brauchler informed 18th Judicial District Chief Judge Carlos Samour during a hearing Friday of his intention to seek the death penalty.
This case is a disturbing one. Johnson lived with his ex-girlfriend, their two-year-old son and his six-year-old son from a previous relationship. The couple had broken up, but they continued to share a home for financial reasons. According to the woman and prosecutors, Johnson sexually assaulted his ex-girlfriend at knifepoint early in the morning of Feb. 10, then went into the room where six-year-old Riley Johnson was sleeping and stabbed him to death.
The two-year-old was not harmed.
Johnson faces charges of first-degree murder and sexual assault. Brauchler said the fact that the victim is a child was one of the aggravating factors that makes the case eligible for the death penalty.
He cast the decision as simply applying the law, according to the Aurora Sentinel.
“This is Colorado’s law, this isn’t my law,” he said.
The Sentinel also reports these painful comments from Riley’s mother, Rachel Johnson: “I don’t know what I want … I just want it all to be over.”
Brandon Johnson’s attorneys don’t dispute that he killed his son, but they say he acted impulsively and without deliberation.
Brauchler was the same prosecutor who sought the death penalty against Aurora theater shooter James Holmes, who killed 12 people and injured 70. A jury decided not to execute Holmes.
Jurors also declined to impose the death penalty in the case of Dexter Lewis, who suffered horrific abuse as a child and stabbed five people to death in Fero’s Bar in 2012.
There are just three people on Colorado’s death row. One of them, Nathan Dunlap, who killed four people at an Aurora Chuck E. Cheese in 1993, was granted an indefinite reprieve by Gov. John Hickenlooper.
Colorado has executed only one person since the death penalty was reinstated in 1975, Gary Lee Davis in 1997.
The American Civil Liberties Union objected to Brauchler’s decision to seek the death penalty in Johnson’s case, calling it “an outlier decision in direct contradiction to movement across Colorado and the rest of the country away from spending limited resources in the pursuit of death.”