Judge says murder trial in Alabama sheriff’s death will move counties
The Associated Press
HAYNEVILLE (AP) — A judge on Wednesday ordered that the capital murder trial of a man accused of killing an Alabama sheriff be moved to another county.
Circuit Judge Bert Rice granted a defense request to move the trial against William Chase Johnson out of Lowndes County, where Sheriff John Williams served. Rice said the new venue will be set at a later time.
Johnson, 21, of Montgomery, faces capital murder charges for the 2019 shooting death of the sheriff. Williams was killed at a gas station in Lowndes County.
Johnson’s lawyers argued in a January motion that he could not receive a fair trial in the county where the case has been heavily covered in local media and where the courthouse was renamed for the slain sheriff. Defense lawyers said prosecutors intend to seek the death penalty.
“The sensational characterizations of the case and the portrayal of Mr. Johnson have provoked the community’s hostility against Mr. Johnson,” his defense lawyers wrote.
Sometimes known as “Big John” for his towering frame, the 62-year-old sheriff was well-known throughout the county. He spent more than 40 years serving the community. He started out as a reserve deputy in 1978 before moving to the Hayneville Police Department. Then he returned to the sheriff’s office and worked his way up to chief deputy before being elected sheriff in 2010.