Homicide Defendant Maintains Innocence Before Receiving 50-Year Prison Sentence

A 31-year-old homicide defendant maintained his innocence before receiving a 50-year prison sentence on March 25 for the fatal shooting of Justin Johnson over two years ago.

Baltimore City Circuit Court Judge Robert K. Taylor Jr. presided over the sentencing hearing Friday morning for Baltimore resident Deonte Walker who was convicted of second-degree murder and four weapons charges last December in connection to Johnson’s death on Jan. 14, 2020. He was represented by defense attorney Catherine Flynn.

The defendant adamantly denied his involvement in the fatal shooting that took the 25-year-old victim’s life in the early morning hours on the 1400 block of Fayette Street.

According to his ex-girlfriend’s testimony at his trial, she and Walker were buying a snack at a corner store where Walker and Johnson got into a verbal altercation. However, the witness, who also testified that Johnson was her drug dealer, said she had trouble remembering exactly what happened as she was on four different drugs and only heard the gunshots.

During Friday’s proceedings, the prosecution recalled witness testimony that Johnson shoved Walker before the defendant fired five gunshots, two of which struck the victim in the chest.

“There were two more shots fired striking Mr. Johnson in his upper back and his head as he was either running away or falling down after being shot in the chest,” the prosecutor said.

Walker gave his condolences to the family, telling Judge Taylor that he stood by his innocence. He also asked the judge for his immediate release.

“I didn’t do nothing to nobody,” Walker said. “The guns weren’t found on me or my property. … I’m just asking for justice to be done.”

The assistant state’s attorney recommended a sentence of 75 years, suspending all but 60 years. The prosecutor said Walker has had nine separate incidents occur in jail since his incarceration in January 2020, all of which included assault, battery, or threats against inmates and staff.

Walker also has three prior convictions, including robbery with the use of a deadly weapon, illegal possession of a firearm, and possession of a firearm with a felony conviction.

“These were his choices. He’s the one who chose to raise it to the level of taking someone’s life,” the prosecutor said. 

Flynn replied that all but two of the incidents at the prison occurred during the pandemic lockdown, explaining that “inmates in facilities suffered more than most of us” during that time.

“He’s in an extremely predatory environment,” she said. “He’s in a situation where he’s faced with having to take care of himself. I suspect the environment in these institutions has deteriorated dramatically in the time of lockdown. These guys were caged animals.”

Flynn concluded that the defendant “feels like he’s been railroaded through the process” and plans to appeal.

“My client did not ask for any specific sentence because he denies this crime,” she said.

Judge Taylor sentenced Walker to the following: 40 years for second-degree murder; a consecutive 20 years, suspending all but 10, and three years of supervised probation for firearm use in a felony violent crime; and a concurrent 10 years for firearm possession with a felony conviction.

Two counts of having a handgun on his person were also merged with the one count of firearm possession with a felony conviction.

Johnson’s sister and the grandmother of his eldest son also spoke during Walker’s sentencing, both of whom acknowledged the victim’s alleged history of drug dealing.

“Justin was an amazing person outside of his flaws. We all have flaws. We all have done things we’re not proud of,” his sister told the court. “Justin was so much more than a gun-wielding thug, drug dealer or whatever he was pictured to be” during the trial. “By taking him away from us, Deonte crushed us all.” 

She explained that she did not want Walker to suffer but that the defendant needed to understand his wrongdoing. 

“He shot a man in the back over words because of pride. It was very senseless,” she said before telling Walker, “You definitely deserve to pay for what you’ve done.”

The victim’s son’s grandmother added that Johnson’s son learned of his father’s death through social media and that what happened continues to haunt her. She reiterated Johnson’s sister’s sentiments that he was “an excellent boy” and loved by the community.

No hearings are currently scheduled for Walker’s appeal, according to the Maryland Judiciary website.

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