Originally created 07/01/00

Judge denies retrial for convicted killer



AIKEN - An inmate serving life sentences for shooting two Augusta men to death and dumping their bodies in different locations will not get a new trial.

In court papers released Friday, Circuit Judge Thomas Cooper Jr. rejected claims by double murderer Kevin Kenyatta Johnson that his defense team was ineffective during the 1996 trial.

Mr. Johnson, 28, was found guilty in October 1996 in the shooting deaths of Creighton Jackson and Michael Cooper. The bodies of the Augusta men were found in 1995, and autopsies showed they both died from multiple gunshot wounds, with one of the corpses riddled by at least seven bullets.

An Aiken County jury convicted him of two counts of murder and possession of a firearm during the commission of a crime.

During a post-conviction relief hearing in May, Mr. Johnson made 11 allegations against his former defense team, Regina Poteat and Robert Harte. Among the claims:

Failure to request marijuana tests for the victims - Mr. Johnson believed the victims were under the influence of drugs on the night of the murders, information that could have supported his self-defense claims at trial. But Ms. Poteat said her former client never requested the test and it was impossible because the urine samples necessary for analysis were not preserved.

Failure to investigate murder committed by victim - Mr. Johnson claimed one of the victims had previously committed a homicide. Mr. Harte said he investigated the claim before trial and was unsuccessful in discovering any evidence to support the allegation.

Failure to introduce co-defendant's psychiatric records - Mr. Johnson claimed Jennifer Ruth Ladun, co-defendant, had a history of mental illness, and her records could have helped destroy her credibility as a witness for the prosecution.

"The trial transcript reflects that (attorneys) sufficiently impeached Ladun's testimony on cross-examination by questioning her about her psychiatric treatment, the inconsistency of her previous statements made to police, and her prior conviction of falsely reporting a crime," Judge Cooper wrote in his finding.

Mr. Johnson has 30 days to appeal the judge's ruling.

Reach Greg Rickabaugh at (803) 279-6895.