Many disagreements between friends are small: twenty dollars loaned, a meeting missed. The disagreement between Terry Johnson and Andre Wiggins could have been one of those fights, and maybe it was: The two young men liked the same woman. Both dated her.
According to prosecutors, that disagreement, that tension, sparked a feud that set Johnson and Wiggins against each other for months, chasing, threatening, and shooting at one another until Wiggins was dead.
But Johnson’s defense attorneys say that this narrative, presented by prosecutors who have charged Johnson with first-degree murder, is wrong.
“The government’s case is like trying to fit a square peg into a round hole,” defense attorney James Whitehead told the jury. “It doesn’t fit the evidence.”
Whitehead argued that Johnson and Wiggins had settled their dispute during a five-minute phone call that occurred on the morning of Wiggins’ death. Moreover, the weapon used to murder Wiggins was never recovered, and none of the witnesses positively identified Johnson as the shooter.
Johnson’s trial this month, 16 months after Wiggin’s death, ended with closing arguments Thursday. On Friday jurors were sent to deliberate on the testimony of more than 20 witnesses.
In her closing arguments, Assistant U.S. Attorney Reagan Taylor asked jurors to particularly remember the testimony of witnesses who spoke about the disagreement between Johnson and Wiggins.
“To really understand what happened, you have to go back several months,” she said, pointing to a period of time that witnesses said Johnson and Wiggins had dated Johnson’s then-girlfriend at the same time.
“You don’t have to imagine or speculate how this made Johnson feel,” Taylor said. “Everybody knew.”
At trial this month, several witnesses testified that they knew that Wiggins and Johnson were “beefing” over the woman and had seen each of them driving the woman’s silver Infiniti truck.
One witness testified that in mid-Sept. 2011, just weeks before Wiggins was killed, the witness and Wiggins were in the Clay Terrace neighborhood of Northeast D.C. when they saw Johnson drive around the block. Upon seeing Johnson, Wiggins said that he was going to “shoot at Terry if he drove around the block again,” the witness told the court.
The witness testified that he “called his bluff” and gave Wiggins a gun. Wiggins put on a ski mask, and minutes later, as Johnson’s Buick rounded the corner, Wiggins fired several shots into the car, the witness said.
Later, cell phone records show that Johnson may have texted a witness saying that he was “going to get shorty [Wiggins] when he can.”
Another witness testified that while sitting on a bench in Marvin Gaye Park in late Sept. 2011, he saw Johnson jump out of a vehicle, pull a ski mask over his face, and then chase Wiggins through the park. Johnson, the witness said, was carrying a handgun with an extended clip. No shots were reported to have been fired in that instance.
The day Wiggins was killed, he was sitting on a porch with a woman when a male voice down the street yelled for Wiggins to join him, the woman testified in court. She said that Wiggins said, “Alright, here I come,” and then walked towards Division Avenue Northeast.
The witness said that a few seconds later, as she turned to walk into the house, she heard a “POW.”
She then heard several more “POWs,” she said.
That shooting was recorded by a nearby residential security camera, and the video was shown to the jury during trial.
The video shows a man identified as Wiggins walking westbound in the 5200 block of Clay Street Northeast towards Division Avenue. Six seconds after Wiggins leaves the view of the camera, a single shot rings out. Wiggins is then seen running eastbound, with the shooter chasing him. Five more shots are fired before Wiggins falls face down on the pavement.
At trial, Dr. Russell Alexander, who examined Wiggins’ body, said that Wiggins was struck by two bullets: one to his left leg just below his calf, and one near his left shoulder blade, injuring his left lung and aorta. Those wounds killed him, Alexander said.
A witness who lived nearby testified that shortly before noon the day of the shooting, she saw a man in an alley off Clay Street adjusting a ski mask. The witness testified that she watched the man for several minutes as he lingered behind a trashcan and then walked up Clay Street. She lost sight of him for about 20 seconds, heard gunshots, and then saw the man run back through the alley carrying a gun in his left hand.
Another witness told the grand jury prior to trial that on the day he was killed, Wiggins followed Johnson’s young daughter as she walked to school with her mother.
The witness, who is the child’s mother, said she dropped the child off at school, then walked to a friend’s house, where she met Shannon Johnson. When she told Johnson what had just happened, Johnson became “angry and upset” and called her son, Terry Johnson, the witness said.
The witness said Shannon Johnson also called Wiggins and told him to leave the child alone because the child “had nothing to do with this.”
A few minutes later the witness received a call from Johnson telling her to pack some clothes and then never return to her apartment on Clay Street Northeast, according to grand jury testimony.
Later, when she went to her apartment to pack, she and Shannon Johnson saw that police had taped off the area.
According to the grand jury testimony, Shannon Johnson called Terry Johnson, her son, who told her, “I did it.”
At trial, though, the witness recanted her testimony and said that she lied to the grand jury.
Johnson’s mother, Shannon Johnson, is charged with evidence tampering related to her son’s case. Prosecutors argued that she volunteered to speak with police concerning the homicide. After the interview, when police told her they were going to seize her cell phone as evidence, she broke the phone into two pieces, according to trial testimony.
But defense attorneys argued that although the government called over 20 witnesses, its case was based on assumption, speculation and gossip, and that Shannon Johnson broke her phone out of “anger and frustration” with police, who she thought were “messing with her.”
Jury deliberations in the case began Friday morning.