Teen sentenced to seven years in murder trial

Saturday, March 14, 2009 4:05 PM
Last updated 8:30 PM
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Facing the possibility of a deadlocked jury and mistrial, attorneys in the trial of a teen accused of murder reached a compromise today.

Johnny Dinh, 17, pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter and received a seven-year prison sentence followed by 13 years on probation, said Assistant District Attorney Adam King.

“It was a good compromise under the circumstances,” Mr. King said.

Mr. Dinh was 14 years old when he shot to death 20-year-old Rodney McGhee Jr. on May 3, 2006.

The two were neighbors on Keron Way in Hephzibah. The victim’s father testified this week he never heard of any problems between his son and Mr. Dinh, who lived nearby with his grandfather. Mr. Dinh would play basketball sometimes at the McGhee home.

Around 8 p.m. the day of the incident, the senior Mr. McGhee discovered his dying son on the side of the street not far from the family’s mailbox. The victim had been shot once in the chest.

Mr. Dinh had no reason to shoot Mr. McGhee unless he was being attacked as he told sheriff investigators later that night, defense attorney Jacque Hawk argued to the jury in his closing statement.

Mr. Dinh initially lied to detectives and claimed someone else must have killed Mr. McGhee. The second story he gave was that when the two crossed paths that night, an intoxicated Mr. McGhee grabbed him and tore his shirt. Mr. Dinh said he tried to warn off Mr. McGhee by firing his grandfather’s .22-caliber Luger at the ground. But Mr. McGhee charged at him and Mr. Dinh fired in self defense, he told detectives.

That account didn’t fit an eye witness’s account, the prosecutor countered. The witness saw Mr. Dinh arguing with Mr. McGhee and saw the victim walking away from the teen, Mr. King said.

Two shell casings from the gun were found 15 to 20 feet from Mr. McGhee’s body, Mr. King said. How, he asked the jury, can you be in jeopardy from an unarmed man 15 to 20 feet away?

A person is entitled to defend himself if he “reasonably believes” using deadly force is the only answer. But a person cannot use deadly force just because someone tore his shirt, Mr. King argued to the jury.

Mr. Dinh told investigators that he was scared of Mr. McGhee and what happened the night. But, Mr. King said, after emergency workers and sheriff officers arrived, Mr. Dinh returned the scene of the crime. How does that fit being scared to death?

Mr. Dinh’s attorney asked the jury to consider the situation from the perspective of a 14-year-old. Young teens often don’t act reasonably, Mr. Hawk said. He asked the jury to consider the fact Mr. Dinh only shot Mr. McGhee once. If he intended to kill, he would have fired several times, Mr. Hawk said.

Jurors deliberated most of the day Friday before announcing they were deadlocked and had been for several hours, Mr. King said. Judge James G. Blanchard Jr. sent them home for the night around 5 p.m. They returned this morning. The plea negotiation was reached about an hour later.

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justus4
97
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justus4 03/14/09 - 06:06 pm
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Wow! What an example of
Unpublished

Wow! What an example of kangaroo justice. Seven years for murder with 13 yrs of probabtion. This sounds like the victim being a young man of color and the shooter being a non-minority. What's clear is that this kid's life didn't mean a lot to this court proceedings and demonstrates a pattern of injustice. Why not just give Dinh community service?

patriciathomas
42
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patriciathomas 03/14/09 - 06:10 pm
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Tough case without much good

Tough case without much good evidence one way or the other. Something happened and someone died. Tough lifestyle that makes life that valueless.

TrulyWorried
11956
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TrulyWorried 03/14/09 - 07:22 pm
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Sad indeed - hard to swallow.

Sad indeed - hard to swallow.

No_Longer_Amazed
5143
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No_Longer_Amazed 03/14/09 - 07:34 pm
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justus4: IMO the shooter

justus4: IMO the shooter might also be some 'color' other than white. Maybe of Asian heritage?

lindsey1982
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lindsey1982 03/14/09 - 07:43 pm
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JUSTUS..I completely agree

JUSTUS..I completely agree with you and thank you for your caring comment. I am the Aunt of Johnny Dinh and this case has been going on for a while now. However I am very pleased with Jaque Hawk and the way he represented my nephew. I dont feel there could have been a better attorney for him. I just cant wait for my nephew to come home!

lindsey1982
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lindsey1982 03/14/09 - 07:46 pm
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NO LONGER AMAZED...his

NO LONGER AMAZED...his mother...my sister is white and his father whom has never been apart of his life is asian....regardless, I dont think race should be a factor at all....in any situation!!

No_Longer_Amazed
5143
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No_Longer_Amazed 03/14/09 - 08:15 pm
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lindsey1982: IMO justus did

lindsey1982: IMO justus did not make a "caring comment." justus always seems to make things racial, and IMO his comment was a sarcastic one that implied there was a lack of justice in this case influenced by the fact that the victim was "a young man of color" and the shooter "a non-minority." I was trying to point out what I believe to be an error in his position.

TakeAstand
13
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TakeAstand 03/14/09 - 11:43 pm
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What was a 14 year old doing

What was a 14 year old doing walking around with a gun to start with?? Sorry, but I don't buy it. If he was scared of someone and thought he needed to be protected by a deadly weapon, where's that info, why didn't the parents or why werent police called or anyone else step in if he needed to have a gun on him walking the streets at 14 for "protection" ??? Not one person knew he was terrorized enough to need protection??? Sounds more premeditated to me than self defense! Maybe he only had it to try to bed "bad" and show out and didn't intend to kill, but had he not had it just walking the streets with it at 14, which is not normal unless you are affiliated with bad groups of people, a family would still have thier loved one!!!!!

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