New Castle News

September 12, 2012

Trial under way for West Side shooting

Nancy Lowry
New Castle News

NEW CASTLE — The trial of a man charged with attempted homicide began Tuesday in Lawrence County Common Pleas Court.

Justin Juan Johnson, 29, who has addresses at 111 N. Lee Ave. and 421-09 Neshannock Village, is charged in the shooting of 19-year-old Regan Pierre.

“This will not be CSI New Castle,” assistant district attorney William Flannery told a jury of 10 women and two men. “We do not have DNA evidence or a satellite view. This is an old-fashioned ‘Who do you believe?’”

He said that on Aug. 10, 2011, Pierre was shot at six times. One bullet struck his left shoulder and lodged in his chest.

“The victim identified who shot him. He knew this individual, knew his car.”

Flannery promised to prove his case beyond a reasonable doubt, but said some things can’t be explained, “I intend to cut to the chase and prove that the victim was shot by someone he knows. We don’t have to provide a motive.”

Defense attorney William Panella took a different approach.

“This is not a complicated case,” he said. “It’s simple and serious. The whole case deals with identification.

“There is no evidence that (Johnson) did anything,” Panella continued. “There is no DNA on the steering wheel, no fingerprints. They have no gun. All they have is what the victim says.”

Panella said the victim and defendant really didn’t know each other and there was no animosity between them.

“We don’t dispute that he was shot,” Panella said. “We dispute who shot at his car.”

The first witness was Pierre. He identified Johnson, saying he knew him as “Mr. Muddles.”

Pierre said on the day of the shooting, he had been confronted by “Muddles” and Marquise Wise, who he knew as “Boo Boo,” at the West Side MiniMart. He said he left, followed by the two men, who passed his vehicle.

At the intersection of Lincoln Avenue and Shenango Street, Pierre said, Johnson jumped from the bushes and “fired six or seven shots” at him. He said he called his girlfriend to say he’d been shot, drove to her house and was taken to Jameson Hospital.

At the hospital he encountered Sgt. David Cumo of the New Castle police department. He said he told him “Mr. Muddles shot me.”

Pierre was airlifted to a Pittsburgh hospital. The following day, he testified, he identified Johnson as the man who had shot him, picking him from an array of photos.

Johnson is charged with attempted homicide, conspiracy to commit homicide, aggravated and simple assault, recklessly endangering another person, propulsion of missiles into an occupied vehicle and driving with a license suspended or revoked.