Woman found guilty of killing cop after CTA bus incident
BY RUMMANA HUSSAIN Criminal Courts Reporter October 30, 2013 4:15PM
Chicago Police Officer Richard Francis and his dog. | Chicago Police Department photo
Updated: December 2, 2013 12:16PM
A middle-aged West Side woman was found guilty Wednesday of disarming a Chicago Police officer and murdering him with his own gun after he confronted her about an altercation on a CTA bus.
Robin Johnson also was convicted of one count of aggravated discharge of a firearm for shooting at an officer who came to help colleague Richard Francis.
Johnson, 50, was cleared of attempted murder charges and three other counts of aggravated discharge of a firearm.
But prosecutors said they were satisfied Johnson was found guilty on the most serious charges of first-degree murder.
“We’re pleased with the jury’s verdict,” Assistant Cook County State’s Attorney Charise Valente said.
Johnson and Francis’ relatives declined to comment after the jury delivered a verdict following five hours of deliberation.
Assistant Public Defender Kulmeet S. “Bob” Galhotra said defense attorneys will appeal the verdict. He pointed out that they were barred from presenting evidence that Johnson had a history of epileptic seizures and was in a confused state at the time and could not have formed the intent to commit murder.
“We thank the jury for their hard work and wish we could have presented our medical defense,” he said.
Earlier Wednesday, jurors heard a vivid description of Francis’ final moments.
They heard him chuckle, responding to the 911 call moments before he was killed.
“Bus disturbance,” Francis was heard saying lightheartedly on the recording of the call from the early morning hours of July 2, 2008. “Just screaming people.”
Francis, 60, decided to go to the scene alone, despite his proximity to the Belmont District police station, not realizing the danger he was in.
Within seconds, the 27-year Chicago Police veteran would be dead.
“He underestimated her,” Assistant State’s Attorney Jennifer Coleman said Wednesday.
“He underestimated the situation. He underestimated what she [Johnson] was capable of,” Coleman said.
Johnson was “aggressive, hostile and angry,” prosecutors told jurors in their closing arguments, describing Johnson’s actions against Francis and the four officers who came to his aid.
Although he didn’t mention her reported mental illness, Galhotra said Johnson was “confused, distressed and in need of help” during her interaction with the other CTA commuter and her ensuing struggle with Francis.
Before Francis was shot, Johnson was seen holding her breast, telling the commuter, whom she didn’t know, “You made me this way,” Galhotra reminded jurors.
Johnson was pacing back and forth, stomping her feet and talking to herself outside the CTA bus, Galhotra said.
“She was pressing up against [the commuter]. That’s strange and bizarre behavior. It’s not angry behavior,” Galhotra said.
Galhotra asked the jury to use the grainy CTA surveillance video as a “benchmark” for what unfolded that morning instead of what he said was the inconsistent testimony of witnesses and officers.
The defense attorney also implied that Johnson may not have had her finger on the trigger and that the gun could have gone off during the tussle between Johnson and Francis.
But prosecutors said witnesses saw Johnson with the weapon and that she knew exactly what she was doing.
For someone who was confused, “she had some pretty good aim,” Valente said.
Johnson grabbed Francis’ gun, and even though he had his hands up in the form of “a surrender,” she shot him in the face, prosecutors said as Francis’ widow, Deborah, dabbed her eyes with a tissue.
Johnson allegedly shot Francis two more times while he was motionless on the pavement.
“She stood there and she pulled the trigger without a moment’s hesitation,” Valente said before a standing-room only crowd in Judge Thomas Gainer’s courtroom.
Johnson faces up to life in prison.