Judge: Hung jury in Wyoming baby murder trial

Kent County

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — The judge has announced a hung jury in the case of a Wyoming woman accused of leaving her baby to die in a stifling apartment.

The forewoman said Wednesday morning that despite days of deliberations, the jury in the trial of Lovily Johnson was unable to reach a unanimous decision on whether she was guilty of murder and first-degree child abuse in the July 2017 death of her 6-month-old son, Noah.

Johnson is accused of leaving her son alone, trapped in a car seat in a stifling Wyoming apartment for three days while she went out, shopped and smoked. When she returned home to find him not breathing, she took him to the hospital.

An emergency room doctor testified last week that by that point, Noah had already been dead for some time.

The medical examiner said Noah was starved and dehydrated and that he died of neglect. However, Johnson’s attorney argued there’s no proof of that. The suggested other possible causes of death that the medical examiner said were not likely.

Kent County Prosecutor Chris Becker said this was the longest deliberation he’s ever experienced.

Jurors started considering the case against the 23-year-old mom last Wednesday and continued deliberations into the next two days without reaching a verdict. On Friday, deliberations were cut short when one of the jurors who underwent a medical procedure started bleeding and had to be hospitalized.

As of Friday, the jurors said they had reached a unanimous decision on the child abuse charge. But on Wednesday, the forewoman said there was no unanimous decisions on either charge.

“I think it speaks to the nature of the over-charging. It’s been clear from us from the beginning that this was a tragedy, not a murder. The government has been taught a lesson. They might not like it, but it’s true,” said Johnson’s defense attorney.

“There’s not a whole lot to do differently. The facts are what the facts are. So I can’t say I’m going to, there’s going to be a whole lot of change. I mean it’s obviously a different jury and maybe there’s some things I’m going to emphasize but I can’t say I’m going to completely do anything differently because the facts are what the facts are,” said Becker.

The judge said a new trial will be set unless the defense is able to get some relief in an interogatory appeal.

The judge denied the defense’s request for a personal recognizance bond for Johnson so she could be free pending a new trial, which could be months away.

Johnson faced a maximum sentence of life in prison if convicted on the murder charge originally filed against her. However, an appeal would be likely because jail staff opened mail Johnson sent to her attorney and forwarded its contents to police, which jail officials said was a mistake.

Detectives and prosecutors have said they didn’t read the letter.

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