Bonifay, FL -- February 29, 2012 --
The penalty phase in the trial of convicted murderer Johnny Sketo Calhoun began Wednesday morning. It was the defense's last chance to save Calhoun from the ultimate punishment.
"I'm asking you to consider the full life of the man," Defense Attorney Kimberly Dowgul told the jury.
Several witnesses took the stand testifying to the positive influence Calhoun has had on them both in jail and at home. But the testimony and tears were not enough to sway the jury.
"Death row is reserved for the worst of the worst, and on that night, Johnny Mack Calhoun qualified for position there," said State Attorney Glen Hess.
Jurors took just an hour and a half to come to their recommendation. Calhoun showed emotion for the first time Wednesday, appearing to wipe away tears during testimony, then looking surprised as the clerk read the recommendation.
"I feel like it's been a good day, not only for our family but as a community," said Mia Brown's sister Megan Kriser.
Kriser and her brother Chuck Riddle, who were back in court Wednesday, said the death penalty recommendation will help their family move forward, but they said they'll never forget.
"It does bring a little closure and now we can just concentrate on Mia and the memory of Mia," said Riddle.
"One of the last conversations her and I had, she was teaching me how even good people do bad things," said Kriser.
Calhoun's fate is now in the hands of Circuit Judge Christopher Patterson. He'll order a pre-sentencing investigation before deciding if he'll follow the jury's death penalty recommendation. He did not set a sentencing date Wednesday.
Bonifay, FL -- February 29, 2012 --
By vote of 9-3, jury recommends death penalty for Johnny Calhoun, 34.
Johnny Calhoun Murder Trial Continues
Bonifay, FL -- February 28, 2012 --
Esto resident Johnny Sketo Calhoun is guilty of the 2010 kidnapping then burning to death of Holmes County resident Mia Brown.
"Now we can just start the grieving process," said Brown's brother Chuck Riddle.
Prior to the verdict Tuesday, both sides presented strong closing arguments. The state brought up DNA and other evidence.
"Why did he wait eighteen hours before he came out there Saturday morning? Because he'd seen Michael Raley Friday afternoon. The jig's up," Assistant State Attorney Brandon Young said to the jury.
The defense, though, claimed there were still too many unanswered questions.
"Two words that got us here are the two words I'm asking you to return, and that is Johnny Mack Sketo Calhoun is not guilty," Defense Attorney Kimberly Dowgul told jurors.
But in the end, jurors agreed with the prosecution, finding Calhoun guilty of the kidnapping and first degree murder of Mia Brown in 2010.
Following the verdict, News Channel 7 spoke with Brown's family and friends who said justice had finally been served.
"I feel for the Brown's, of course, I feel for the Williams, and I feel for the family," said Brown family friend Ida Snaidman.
"The jury found him guilty and I just feel like we have justice for our sister, Mia Brown. Like I said now we can start the grieving process," said Riddle.
The penalty phase starts Wednesday. That's when the jury will recommend either the death penalty or life in prison.
-- February 27, 2012 --
Bonifay- In day four of the murder trial of Johnny Sketo Calhoun, the defense took less than three hours to present its case.
Defense Attorney Kimberly Dowgul called on ten witnesses. Among them were three residents who live near America's Precious Metals, Calhoun's father's business and where Calhoun lived. Each testified as to hearing something in the same area as Calhoun's trailer the night Mia Brown disappeared.
"Can you tell the jury what woke you up?," Dowgul asked resident Monica Crutchfield.
"A loud noise. I'm not sure what is was, just something loud," said Crutchfield.
"I just heard a large, a loud noise, like a clang, like a car wreck," said resident Darlene Madden when asked the same question.
Then Calhoun's father, John Sketo, took the stand. He told jurors Brown's purse was not in the trailer when he checked it before Calhoun's ex-girlfriend Brittany Mixon got there.
"No, no," said Sketo.
"So there was nothing right there, you would have almost had to step on it if it was right there correct?," asked Dowgul.
"Well yeah because the hall's about that wide," answered Sketo as he demonstrated how wide the hall is.
Two of Mixon's acquaintances, who drove with her the second time to Calhoun's trailer, also testified Monday. Angelia Curry provided more details that back up the defense's claim Calhoun was framed.
She told the jury Mixon did not go to the back of the trailer where Mixon claimed to have found Brown's purse.
"I never saw her reach down for anything. She just turned, it was all standing straight," said Curry.
Closing arguments start Tuesday at 9:00 a.m. The jury could start deliberating by noon.
Bonifay, FL -- February 24, 2012 --
In day three of testimony in the murder trial of Johnny Sketo Calhoun, the state called six more witnesses to the stand. Half of them were Florida Department of Law Enforcement Agents.
Friday was also the first time this week jurors heard testimony regarding DNA evidence discovered in Calhoun's trailer.
"I found a partial roll of duct tape and some pieces of duct tape," said FDLE Senior Crime Lab Analyst Charles Richards.
Crime lab analyst Trevor Seifret told jurors crime techs found Brown's blood on that tape. He also revealed investigators found both Brown's and Calhoun's blood on other items.
The state then introduced another key piece of evidence, a picture of the ceiling of Calhoun's trailer taken by Brown's camera. FDLE Agent Jennifer Roeder testified it was most likely captured December 17, 2010 the same date Brown disappeared.
"In the internal workings of the camera, there's usually a setting when you turn on the camera where you can set the date and time and that time and date is stored," said Roeder.
Holmes County Sheriff's Office Captain Harry Hamilton and Investigator Michael Raley were the final two witnesses of day.
Raley testified as to what Calhoun told deputies when they caught him in his trailer the Monday following Brown's murder.
"What was his response?," Assistant State Attorney Brandon Young asked Raley.
"That he had been evading and hiding from law enforcement," said Raley.
Besides Brown's blood in the trailer, investigators also discovered several strands of her hair. The defense will start presenting its case Monday.
Day 4 in Johnny Calhoun Murder Trial
Bonifay, FL -- February 23, 2012 --
Thursday's testimony began with one of Johnny Sketo Calhoun's former classmates Darren Batchelor. He became the second witness to place Calhoun at a gas station in the area the same weekend Mia Brown was murdered.
"Have you ever seen Mr. Calhoun at Ms. Sherry's store?," State Attorney Glenn Hess asked Batchelor.
"Yes sir I have," said Batchelor.
"How many times have you seen him there?," asked Hess.
"One," said Batchelor.
Alabama Medical Examiner Dr. Stephen Boudreau, who performed Brown's autopsy, was next to testify. He told jurors Brown was alive when her murderer put her in the trunk of her own car and set it on fire.
"You can see soot embedded in the mucus blanket of the airway. What that does is tell you that this person was breathing smoke," said Boudreau.
Then Brittany Mixon, Calhoun's girlfriend in 2010, took the stand. She testified finding Brown's purse and someone's cigarettes and wine in Calhoun's trailer the weekend he and Brown disappeared.
"How long were you in that trailer?," Defense Attorney Kimberly Dowgul asked Mixon.
"Long enough to see the purse, get the purse, see the wine, get the wine and the cigarettes and get out," said Mixon.
Mixon denied planting any evidence, but during cross examination, the defense questioned her character.
"You were leading him on because he had money," said Dowgul.
"I could say I was leading him on because he had money, but Johhny Mack was my friend, and he was my best friend," said Mixon.
The state plans to call six more witnesses Friday, then rest its case. It's not clear if Calhoun will take the stand.
Day 3 in Johnny Calhoun Murder Trial
Bonifay, FL -- February 22, 2012 --
"This whole situation began with somebody agreeing to give somebody a ride," Assistant State Attorney Brandon Young told the jury.
"But the question will be how much sense will this all make in the end?," Defense Attorney Kim Dowgul asked the jury.
Attorneys for both sides in the Johnny Sketo Calhoun murder trial had strong opening statements Wednesday.
"You're going to find the defendant guilty as charged of kidnapping and first degree murder," said Young.
"Does it all, when you take both sides, fit together?," asked Dowgul.
The state told jurors evidence will prove Calhoun murdered Mia Brown in 2010. The defense, however, seemed to imply Calhoun's girlfriend at the time, Brittany Mixon, framed him.
"When he walks in there the second time after Ms. Mixon has been there, there's now a shotgun that belongs to Johnny Mack," Dowgul told jurors.
Following opening arguments, the state called up its first witnesses.
Among them was Brown's husband Brandon Brown.
"What did you do when you realized she hadn't made it home?," Young asked him.
"I started calling her family to see if she may have went over there or something," said Brown.
Convenience store clerk Sherry Bradley also took the stand. She claimed Calhoun came into her store the weekend Brown was murdered.
"I noticed he had scratches on his hands and the blood had dried," said Bradley.
Seven others testified Wednesday. Calhoun's girlfriend was not one of them. She and nine others could take the stand as soon as Thursday.
The state is expected to wrap up its case by Wednesday. The defense would then take over Monday. The state is seeking the death penalty.
Jury Selection Wraps Up in Johnny Calhoun Murder Trial
Bonifay, FL -- February 21, 2012 --
It was another busy day Tuesday at the Holmes County Courthouse in Bonifay as jury selection wrapped up in the murder trial of Johnny Sketo Calhoun. He's charged with the 2010 kidnapping and murder of Holmes County resident Mia Brown.
Both sides began the day knowing they had twelve jurors and one alternate already seated. The court's goal for day two was to find two more alternates.
Much like day one, Circuit Judge Christoper Patterson first addressed the large group of prospective jurors upstairs.
"At this point we're going to start with what I call part one of the voir dire examination," Patterson told the group.
He then brought them downstairs in groups of three for further questioning.
"You hesitate on whether or not you can be fair. What issue might that be?," Patterson asked one of the potential jurors.
During this step, a deputy handed Judge Patterson a note from one of the jurors chosen Monday. It's not clear what it said, but Patterson released that juror from the case and moved the first alternate into her place. Then the process continued to now find three alternates.
After the lunch break, lawyers continued to question the 15 remaining people in the jury pool.
"You think that would affect your ability to be fair and impartial?," Assistant State Attorney Brandon Young asked one of the prospective jurors.
There was one final short break before they chose the final three.
Opening statements are expected to start Wednesday morning. The state will then be first up to present its case and is could call its first witness by 10:30 a.m. Wednesday. The trial is anticipated to last through next Friday. If convicted, Calhoun could face the death penalty.
Jury Selection Begins in Johnny Calhoun Murder Trial
Bonifay, FL -- February 20, 2012 --
Jury selection in the murder trial of Johnny Calhoun, 34 years old, began Monday morning at the Holmes County Courthouse.
Circuit Judge Christoper Patterson started the day off by briefly addressing the first group of around 50 potential jurors.
"From this point forward you should not discuss this case or anything that has occurred here in this courtroom with anyone else," said Patterson.
He then brought them to a smaller courtroom downstairs in groups of five and six. There Judge Patterson and attorneys for both sides asked them a set of general questions.
Judge Patterson released 11 people in that round, then the remaining potential jurors faced more in depth questions later in the afternoon.
The defendant, Johnny Calhoun, was present Monday. He faces one count of kidnapping and one count of first degree murder. Investigators said he kidnapped Mia Brown, 24 years old, in Esto in December 2010. Her charred body was found soon after in her burned vehicle in Geneva, Alabama.
"The jurors must decide the case only on the evidence presented in the courtroom," said Patterson.
As of 4:00 Monday afternoon, no jurors had been chosen. The selection process is expected to continue Tuesday with opening statements possibly Wednesday. The trial could last up to two weeks.