Local/State

Jury deliberates fate of murder defendant Donte Johnson

Tuesday, May 08, 2012

The fate of 18-year-old Donte Johnson now rests in the hands of a Philadelphia jury.

The teen is accused of murdering 20-year-old Sabina O'Donnell outside her Northern Liberties apartment back in the summer of 2010.

"She was a pure spirit, and an angel above. This just can't be true, this is a horror movie," said Assistant District Attorney Richard Sax.

Sax, who prosecuted this case, waxed eloquent in his closing arguments to the jury.

He described the gruesome murder two years ago of 20-year-old Sabina Rose O'Donnell, a Northern Liberties waitress whose nude, battered and strangled remains were found behind her 4th and Girard apartment building.

The evidence against then-18-year-old Donte Johnson is overwhelming. Surveillance video placed him close the crime scene during the overnight hours in question, and a lot of DNA evidence implicates no one but Johnson.

"He beat her, dragged her, raped her, sodomized her, strangled her, which took a long time, all behind her home, all as she was getting ready to put her keys in her home. A complete stranger to this dancer and singer and waitress and good friend and wonderful daughter," said Sax.

The defense team has gone for reasonable doubt here, claiming Johnson was brain-damaged from birth and has a low IQ that makes his confession questionable. They even attacked the DNA evidence.

"I challenged the DNA on the based on the fact that it's not a perfect science. People make mistakes," said Johnson's attorney, Lee Mandell. "As far as the statement and confession, the argument was very simple. He didn't have the capacity, based on the brain damage and his mental health deficiences, to make that statement and make it voluntarily."

The jury is considering multiple charges in addition to the murder charge, including rape, robbery and burglary.

If convicted of first degree murder, Johnson will get a mandatory life sentence with no chance of parole.

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Tags:
philadelphia, pennsylvania, northern liberties, homicide, sex assault, beating, local/state, vernon odom
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