Testimony to begin in murder trial

Raheem Johnson, 22, talks with his attorney, Clay County Public Defender Kristen Wood Williams, during Tuesday's jury selection.
By: 
STEVE ROGERS
Staff Writer

A nine-woman, four-man Clay County Circuit Court jury will start hearing testimony today in a murder case from almost three years ago.

Prosecutors and attorneys for 22-year-old Raheem Johnson spent most of the day in legal arguments and questioning about 100 potential jurors for the trial before finalizing the jury pool just after 5 p.m.

The jury pool includes one alternate.

Earlier in the day, Judge Jim Kitchens denied a motion to suppress a statement Johnson, of Mantee, gave investigators after his arrest in the May 15, 2015, shooting death of 38-year-old James "Fluffy" White.

Two other men -- 23-year-old Casey Watkins and 29-year-old Roderick Johnson -- also have been charged in the case.

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. More than 20 people have been listed as potential witnesses.

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 His bond was revoked after that indictment and he's been in the Clay County Jail since then.

In papers filed as part of the court record, White's family, 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 day 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," 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.

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