Jan 262018

Johntrell Washington (via opcso.org upon arrest in 2014)

A 21-year-old man was found guilty by a New Orleans jury on Thursday of killing one woman in Central City in 2014, then plotting to kill another woman he erroneously thought was a witness a year later, according to Orleans Parish prosecutors.

Johntrell Washington now faces a life sentence in the slaying of 38-year-old Racquel Gillard when he was only 17, according to the news release. He will be sentenced in March.

To read the full news release from Orleans Parish District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro, see below:

District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro’s office on Thursday (Jan. 25) won the conviction of Johntrell “John John” Washington for murdering a Central City woman in 2014, then a year later conspiring on an attempt to murder a woman mistakenly thought to have witnessed the slaying.

Washington, 21, was found guilty as charged of the second-degree murder of Racquel Gillard and of conspiracy to commit first-degree murder, by a New Orleans jury that deliberated just over two hours. Assistant District Attorneys Sarah Dawkins and Rachel Hurd prosecuted the three-day trial in the courtroom of Criminal District Judge Darryl Derbigny.

“This trial posed some difficult challenges,” Cannizzaro said. “But in the end, it demonstrates the importance of people in the community coming forward to give critical information to authorities and, if needed, testify at trial to help end a dangerous individual’s reign of terror.”

Washington first was accused of murder at age 16, when New Orleans police arrested him on suspicion of killing 16-year-old Ricky Summers, a KIPP Central City Academy student who was found shot to death in the 2200 block of Terpsichore Street on March 3, 2012. Prosecutors were unable to take that case to trial because of uncooperative witnesses.

Gillard, 38, was fatally shot in a vacant lot near South Liberty and Josephine streets on April 14, 2014. Detectives arrested Washington, then 17, after locating an eyewitness to the crime who identified him as the shooter. That reluctant witness fled the city last year, but was arrested Monday on a material witness warrant approved by Judge Derbigny. She provided crucial trial testimony about Gillard’s murder before her release was ordered early Thursday.

“If we had had the cooperation we needed after this individual committed his first murder, perhaps a life could have been saved and we would not have had to prosecute this crime,” Cannizzaro said. “This is a vicious defendant who was involved in the illegal narcotics trade and demonstrated he would go to any extremes in his attempts to avoid being prosecuted.”

While in jail awaiting trial, Washington conspired with his older brother Damond on a plot to silence the eyewitness. The brothers discussed the fixing of a “leaky pipe” on a recorded jailhouse phone call, hours after a woman was shot multiple times in Central City in April 2015. That woman, whom the brothers mistakenly thought witnessed Gillard’s slaying, survived her injuries and identified Damond Washington as her assailant. Damond Washington eventually pleaded guilty to attempted murder and is serving a 20-year prison sentence.

But the attempts at intimidation continued into this week. On Wednesday, two jurors had to be dismissed from the trial by Derbigny. One had received a threatening phone call after being impaneled Tuesday night, and another had to be removed after the first juror related details of the threatening phone call. The remaining 12 jurors reached guilty verdicts by 11-1 votes on each count, with no remaining alternate jurors present.

“Despite this defendant’s young age, he already has a lengthy and dangerous criminal history,” Dawkins said. “We’re just happy the jury came to the proper conclusion based on the evidence and testimony.”

“John John” Washington is scheduled for a pre-sentencing hearing on March 9, at which Derbigny will begin to determine whether he will be sentenced to life in prison with or without the possibility of parole. The defendant also faces up to 30 years on the murder conspiracy conviction.

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