Murder case going to jury today

Raheem Johnson leaves the courtroom Thursday during a break in his murder trial.
Staff Writer

In his recorded confession, a Clay County man agreed to take another man to shoot an alleged drug "snitch" but said, "I seen my daddy was in there, I was like, let me get my daddy."

Not long after, 38-year-old James "Fluffy" White was dead.

A nine-woman, three-man Clay County Circuit Court jury will decide today whether 23-year-old Raheem Johnson is guilty of murder in White's death for his role as an accessory before the fact.

The state and defense rested their cases Thursday afternoon after two days of testimony.

Raheem Johnson did not take the stand and when asked by Judge Jim Kitchens whether he was sure, Johnson replied, "Yes sir, I'm sure."

White was shot to death inside a mobile home on Dixie Road in the Mantee section of western Clay County on the night of May 15, 2015.

During testimony and taped recordings heard Thursday by the jury, Raheem Johnson laid out how Roderick Johnson came to the area from Tupelo and flagged Raheem down as he drove through the community.

Roderick Johnson asked if Raheem knew where Fluffy White was. Roderick said he had to take care of some "business" and "off" White, according to the statement Raheem Johnson eventually gave investigators on May 20, 2015.

They hatched a plan that called for two vehicles to go to Brad Reed's trailer, where Reed, White, Raheem Johnson's father, Kemp Watkins, and three other people were smoking crack cocaine.

As Raheem got his father out of the trailer, Roderick Johnson came in and shot White, according to the statement heard by the jury. Roderick Johnson then left with 24-year-old Casey Watkins, who is Raheem Johnson's half brother. Watkins drove Roderick Johnson to Houston, Miss., where another man took him on to his home in Tupelo.

An AT&T cell phone engineer tracked Rioderick Johnson's whereabouts that night using his cell phone information.

Roderick Johnson and Casey Watkins also have been charged with murder and face later trial dates.

If convicted of murder, Johnson faces life in prison, but he would be eligible for parole after serving part of the sentence.

While Assistant District Attorney Scott Rogillio and Public Defender Kristen Williams were going over jury instructions with Judge Jim Kitchens outside the presence of the jury Thursday afternoon, Rogillio objected to one possible instruction, arguing Raheem Johnson's concern for his father is not a defense.

"He doesn't have the right to take a murderer but get his dad out first," Rogillio said.

Attorneys for Roderick Johnson and Watkins have been in the courtroom observing the trial.