Not in My Name

...but they're dead just the same...

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#201 - Larry Joe Johnson - FL - 5/5/1993
notinmyname

At one point he tried to insist it was his 17 year old companion’s idea, not his.  He wasn’t a willing participant.  A 33 year old man dominated by a 17 year old girl.  Uh… 

Victim:  James Maxwell Hadden (67)            3/16/1979




Source:  The New York Times
Florida Electrocutes a Vietnam Veteran for a 1979 Murder
May 9, 1993


A Vietnam veteran diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder was executed tonight in the electric chair for the 1979 shotgun murder of a gasoline station owner. 

The veteran, Larry Joe Johnson, was pronounced dead at 10:07 P.M., said Jo Miglino, a spokeswoman for Gov. Lawton Chiles. 

Earlier today, the United States Supreme Court denied two separate petitions to review Mr. Johnson's case and the accompanying applications for a stay of execution. 

Veterans' groups had called for state officials to spare Mr. Johnson's life. The effort succeeded in winning at least one delay. 

Mr. Johnson, 49, was condemned for killing James Hadden, 67, who was killed with a sawed-off shotgun during a robbery. 

Mr. Johnson came within days of execution in February, but Governor Chiles delayed it to review a State Supreme Court suggestion that Mr. Johnson had been psychologically damaged by his military service. 

But after his review, Mr. Chiles issued another death warrant. 

"I recognize the Vietnam veteran syndrome," Mr. Chiles said last week. "I do not think it applies in this case."

During the war, Mr. Johnson was in a Navy construction unit in Vietnam. After he received an honorable discharge, he joined the Kentucky National Guard. His military career ended in 1974, when he was hit by a smoke grenade during a training exercise. 

That accident caused brain damage and Mr. Johnson spent years in a military psychiatric ward. 

The war stress argument had failed to avert an execution before in Florida. Another Vietnam veteran, David Funchess, who was convicted of a double murder in Jacksonville, was put to death in 1986, four years after the state rejected his appeal based on post-traumatic stress. 

Mr. Johnson was the 201st person executed nationwide since the Supreme Court allowed states to resume capital punishment in 1976. He became the 31st inmate executed since Florida reinstated the death penalty in 1979.


Source:  Court docs

Johnson was charged with robbing and fatally shooting James Maxwell Hadden on March 16, 1979. The state's case in the guilt phase was based primarily on the testimony of Patty Burks, a seventeen year old girl who had accompanied Johnson for two weeks on a trip from Kentucky to Florida. 

According to her testimony, she and Johnson had decided earlier in the day to leave Florida and go to Minnesota where she had relatives. As they drove west on Interstate 10, Johnson stopped at a Shell service station in Lee, Florida, and told Burks to go inside to buy some cigarettes. While she was inside, Johnson entered carrying a sawed-off 12 gauge shotgun and told Hadden, the attendant, to open the cash register. At Johnson's direction Burks removed the money and started out the door. As she looked back she saw Johnson shoot Hadden. In the car afterward, Johnson told Burks that the attendant had a gun, and "it was us or him." He also told Burks that "dead witnesses don't talk."

After the shooting, Johnson and Burks drove to Burks' hometown of Beaver Dam, Kentucky. While Johnson waited down the road in his car, Burks telephoned her mother from a friend's home and told her about the shooting. Police arrived, arrested Johnson, and confiscated the gun and shells from his car. Fingerprints taken from the service station and testimony by a firearms expert were consistent with Burks' testimony. Based on this and other evidence, the jury found Johnson guilty of first degree murder and robbery with a firearm.

In the penalty phase, the state supported its request for the death penalty with evidence that Johnson was on parole for second degree assault at the time of the killing. Johnson introduced mitigating evidence in the form of testimony by family members, along with testimony and documentary evidence from psychologists that Johnson's actions were the result of "post-traumatic stress disorder" (PTSD), an emotional disorder resulting from his experiences in Vietnam. The state countered the psychological evidence with its own psychiatric testimony that Johnson was not suffering from PTSD. 

At the conclusion of the penalty proceeding, the jury recommended death for the murder and a consecutive life sentence for the robbery. The trial court then issued an opinion in which it adopted the jury's recommendation and set out findings that the crime was committed under three statutory aggravating circumstances and no mitigating circumstances.


Source:  Court docs

The Defendant and his seventeen year-old female companion, both residents of the State of Kentucky, left that state approximately two weeks before the date of the homicide, which occurred on March 16, 1979, and traveled by automobile to Orange Park, Florida. The Defendant took with him a "sawed-off pump shotgun", the stock of which had been replaced by a pistol grip. The Defendant and his companion stayed at Orange Park for approximately two weeks and decided to travel to the State of Minnesota via Kentucky. 

During this trip they traveled westwardly on Interstate 10 through Madison County, Florida. They stopped at a rest area sometime before reaching the intersection of I-10 and State Road 255, at which time the "sawed-off shotgun" was removed from a suitcase in the vehicle in which they were traveling. Upon reaching the SR-255 exit, the Defendant stopped at a Shell service station located just off of I-10 and according to the girl's testimony, she was instructed to go in and buy some cigarettes. The Defendant followed her into the service station with the shotgun. 

The service station operator, JAMES MAXWELL HADDEN, was the only other person on the premises. After a brief conversation between the girl and the station operator concerning cigarettes, the Defendant demanded money from the station operator. The female companion was directed to remove all of the cash, approximately $135.00, from the cash register and she complied. She then proceeded to leave the station, but before reaching the exit door, she turned to see the Defendant fire a single shot which hit the station operator in the head and apparently killed him instantly. She further testified that the service station operator had no weapon of any type.

The Defendant and his companion then proceeded to travel in his motor vehicle, ultimately arriving in the State of Kentucky. When outside of the Defendant's presence, the young girl reported the murder to her mother and ultimately the police were called. The Defendant was subsequently arrested the same day (two days after the murder) and he had in his possession the same "sawed-off shotgun" as well as other incriminating evidence.

Shortly after the homicide took place, the Defendant remarked to his companion that "dead witnesses don't talk".

The jury rendered an advisory sentence of death.

The death sentence was imposed.



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