With murder suspect free, witness is fearful
KAISERSLAUTERN, Germany — One of the witnesses who testified in an Article 32 hearing this week concerning the alleged gang-related murder of Sgt. Juwan Johnson has requested to be placed in protective custody.
“There are steps being taken to provide that soldier with protective assistance,” said Lt. Col. Liz Hibner, a U.S. Army Europe spokeswoman. “No other witnesses have requested protective assistance.”
Hibner would not confirm if the witness actually was in protective custody.
Spc. Randy Berry testified Wednesday during the Article 32 investigation for Spc. Bobby D. Morrissette.
He and other witnesses testified during the two-day hearing about a July 3, 2005, “jumping in” ceremony when Johnson allegedly was beaten in an effort to become a member of the Chicago-based Gangster Disciples. Johnson was found dead the next day in his barracks room on Kleber Kaserne. A medical examiner testified that he had died as a result of multiple blunt force injuries.
Morrissette is one of two soldiers charged with Johnson’s murder so far.
Other witnesses testified in front of Morrissette, lawyers, the investigating officer and spectators in the gallery during the hearing that, by law, is open to the public.
Morrissette, however, is not in pretrial confinement. Morrissette, who witnesses testified was in the Gangster Disciples, has been given no-contact orders with certain individuals, and his pass privileges have been modified.
“The decision to place a soldier in pretrial confinement, or to apply lesser forms of restraint, is a separate and distinct decision from whether or not to provide a witness or victim protective custody,” Hibner wrote in an e-mail. “Commanders, in conjunction with Army law enforcement agencies and Army lawyers, will continue to closely monitor the situation and take appropriate action to ensure the safety and security of those connected to this incident.”
More individuals could be charged in the case, Army officials have said. Investigators initially identified eight servicemembers as suspects in Johnson’s murder.