Judge resets murder trial for March

Staff Writer

A murder trial delayed in Clay County Circuit Court by this week's snow and cold has been reset for March 5.

Judge Jim Kitchens set the new date for 22-year-old Raheem Johnson, 23-year-old Casey Watkins and 29-year-old Roderick Johnson after conferring with prosecutors and defense attorneys.

Raheem Johnson, of Mantee, was scheduled for trial Tuesday on murder charges stemming from the May 15, 2015, death of 38-year-old James (Fluffy) White. But Kitchens canceled court Tuesday and Wednesday because of dangerous road conditions. Several dozen jurors would have had to come to court from all over the county.

The trial is expected to go at least two days and likely longer, according to Assistant District Attorney Scott Rogillo, who is prosecuting the case.

Raheem Johnson, Roderick Johnson, and Watkins, along with Quentin Naugles, were arrested in May 2015 and charged with murder in White's death on Dixie Road in western Clay County.

The Clay County Grand Jury indicted Raheem Johnson, Roderick Johnson and Watkins, but found there wasn't enough probable cause to indict Naugles.

Raheem Johnson was out of jail on $100,000 bond until his indictment last month on a new aggravated assault charge stemming from a November bar fight. His bond was revoked after that indictment and he's been in the Clay County Jail since then.

Although Raheem Johnson was the one planned for trial this week, the court set he same date for all three in case one decides to enter a plea or something else comes up that forces one to be moved. One of the others then can go to trial since much of the evidence and many of the witnesses are the same, court officials said.

Defense attorneys have given prosecutors notice they intend to call as many as 20 witnesses, many of whom are the same ones prosecutors plan to call. But they also include people who may be alibi witnesses.

In papers filed as part of the court record, White's family members, including his mother, brothers and sisters, even a young nephew, have written emotional statements about what his death has meant to them.

"It hurts me to know that my dad will miss so much of my life. I hate that my siblings and I are without a father, and I hope this feeling is something no child ever feels. I love and miss my dad so much and I will continue to make him proud of me," said Xavier White, the victim's oldest son who was 19 when his father was killed.

"I'm having to relearn and reprogram my life in order to function," said "Fluffy' White's wife, Kristin, who noted she often has to turn to others or even Google for answers to their children's questions because she depended on him.

"He is my everything. I'm lost...throughout this time, I have seen him dishonored, disrespected and devalued by the people he loved and it hurts," his widow added.

His mother, Rose Smalley remembered the day he was killed, standing in her kitchen before leaving that morning.

"He gave me a big hug and walked out on the porch and said, 'I love you momma, I'll see you later ... If only I'd known that was my last hug, I would have gotten two plus a big kiss," Smalley wrote.
"A part of me has died and I can never get it back," added his youngest sister, Britney Smalley, who said she almost quit college because of the incident in which her brother was shot multiple times.