COLUMBIA – Horace Johnson was sentenced to 30 years in prison Monday for second-degree murder in the June 2008 beating death of his son, Cortez Johnson, 2.
Horace Johnson sat slumped over in his chair as Boone County prosecuting attorney, Dan Knight, made an emotional plea to 13th Circuit Court Judge Kevin Crane to send Johnson, a convicted felon, to prison for the rest of his life.
“He should be held fully accountable,” Knight said. “The sheer brutality of this case is off the charts.”
Knight gave a brief and emphatic description of the last days in the life of “Little Cortez.” He spoke of the child’s injuries — from the bruises on top of the boy’s head to the burn marks on the soles of his feet.
Knight told the court that “Little Cortez” also suffered from pneumonia, dehydration and malnourishment. “The most disturbing part is that the defendant has shown nearly no emotion at all,” he said. There is no defense, no excuse and no redeeming qualities in the defendant, Knight said, and for those reasons Johnson should spend the rest of his life in prison.
But Johnson's attorney, Stephen Wyse, argued, as he did during Johnson's jury trial, that his client was not the main offender in Cortez’s torture. Instead, it was the child’s mother, Keyonda Lumpkins, who caused the child's suffering, Wyse said, in arguing for a lesser sentence. He asked the judge not to forget that Lumpkins received a 24- year sentence.
According to trial testimony from the Boone County Medical Examiner's Office, Cortez Johnson died from blunt force trauma to the head, as reported earlier in the Missourian.
Following Wyse’s response to Knight’s plea for justice, Crane called Johnson to stand before him. When Crane asked him if there was any reason he was not ready to be sentenced, Johnson replied, “I don’t understand nothing you saying.”
Before Crane could finish reading the terms of his 30-year sentence, Johnson turned his back and began walking slowly toward the side doors of the courtroom. Two court bailiffs stopped him to keep him in the courtroom until Crane finished speaking.