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Garland Store Clerk’s Killer Awaits Sentence

(credit: KTVT/KTXA) Bud Gillett
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DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) - The man convicted of killing a Garland convenience store clerk will soon learn his fate. The jury already found Matthew Johnson guilty of capital murder. Deliberations started on Thursday morning over Johnson’s sentence.

It was May 2012, when the Garland Police Department responded to an emergency call at the Whip-In convenience store. Nancy Harris was the clerk inside. She had been robbed, doused in lighter fluid and set on fire.

In court on Wednesday, jurors watched video of the crime scene. The horrific images were captured by dashboard cameras inside of the squad cars of responding police officers. The video was so graphic that some jurors had a tough time watching and, at times, had to turn away.

In the video, you can see a cloud of smoke and hear a conversation between Harris and one police officer. The victim continually begged the officer for help, and was assured that other rescuers were on the way.

The prosecution has asked jurors to unanimously decide to give Johnson the death penalty, painting him as a stone cold killer, who was shown on camera licking his fingers in order to take Harris’ ring off so he could pawn it for more drugs.

Matthew Johnson (credit: KTVT/KTXA)

Matthew Johnson (credit: KTVT/KTXA)

“Could anything be more vile and disgusting?  And while she’s trembling–because he’s already poured the lighter fluid on her–as soon as he walks in behind the counter—he lights her head on fire,” said prosecutor Elaine Evans.

But Johnson’s lawyers pleaded with jurors to spare his life, reminding them he was high during the crime and remorseful for what he had done.  They argued Johnson’s long addiction to drugs and his history of sexual abuse make him a better candidate for life in prison than death row.  They showed a picture of Johnson with his young daughter, telling the jury he has been a hard-working father when not battling his drug addiction.

Once closing arguments wrapped up, jurors started their deliberations around 11 a.m.  The courtroom was cleared and the jurors were brought back in to take a second look at dash cam video of Johnson in the minutes after his arrest. By 6 p.m., jurors had not reached a decision, so they were sequestered at a local hotel for the evening. Deliberations will resume Friday morning.

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