DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) – A man who lit a gas station clerk on fire said he feels like the lowest scum on earth, as he asked a jury to spare his life.
Matthew Lee Johnson took the stand in the punishment phase of his capital murder trial to avoid the death penalty.
Johnson was calm and deliberate as he took the stand, and everyone in the courtroom quietly listened as he admitted to dousing Nancy Harris with lighter fluid, saying he only did it to scare her.
“I feel even worse now I have to live with this the rest of my life…if I’m able to live,” Johnson told the jury.
Johnson apologized and asked for mercy of Harris’ family members, who were present in the courtroom.
“I’m sorry. I asked for yall’s forgiveness. I asked for mercy. Not for the sake of me, but for the sake of my children and my wife,” he said.
Johnson testified he smoked crack cocaine all night long before deciding to rob the Fina Whip In convenience store in Garland, where 76-year-old Harris was the store clerk. Johnson testified he needed money to buy more drugs, and he recounted his actions that day.
“When she came close to me, I just poured the fluid over her head. At that time, she started trembling.”
The defense team elaborated on Johnson’s struggles with drugs, highlighting that he started smoking marijuana at the age of seven.
But prosecutors fired back, saying Johnson had ample opportunity over the years to seek help for his substance abuse problems.
“You certainly aren’t here to tell this jury that there wasn’t any drug treatment for you?” one of the prosecutors quizzed Johnson.
He responded that there were treatment programs available for him, but he needed insurance to take advantage of them, which he did not have.
Testimony in the punishment phase is expected to continue tomorrow.
The jury will ultimately decide between life in prison or death for Johnson.
It took the same jury two hours to convict Johnson during the first phase of the trial.
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