Defense: “Frightened” Johnson Defended Himself, Others

by Doug McClure

NEWPORT/ST. JOHNSBURY – Darryl Johnson’s attorney Kelly Green reiterated her position that the court reconsider holding Johnson without bail. She referenced 13 V.S.A. § 7553 and 13 V.S.A. § 7554, “A person charged with an offense punishable by life imprisonment when the evidence of guilt is great may be held without bail. If the evidence of guilt is not great, the person shall be bailable in accordance with section 7554 of this title.”

Green argued that Johnson met the standard set for allowing bail “because of his character and the real fear he felt that night.” She mentioned multiple times that Chaplin had an outstanding warrant. 

Green then said, “The shooting occurred in [Johnson’s] driveway. The decedent, Mr. Chaplin, had been arguing at the store with the clerk, became unruly, scared the customers, scared Mr. Johnson. Mr. Johnson was able to eject him from the store. At that point Mr. Chaplin threatened to come to his house. [Johnson] told him not to come to his house.”

She repeated that Johnson “lived some distance away from the store, let’s say twenty or thirty minutes.” 

Green said Johnson “was shocked, frightened, because Mr. Chaplin appeared at his home… there was no reason for Mr. Chaplin to be there. Mr. Johnson went outside with his gun and a flashlight. 

“It was dark, [Johnson] ordered in the strongest ways he could [for] Mr. Chaplin to leave, repeatedly—’leave, leave, leave’—and he wouldn’t leave. Mrs. Johnson called 911 asking for help… Mr. Johnson then resorted to his second plan, which was to try take his keys and keep him there until police came. There’s nothing else you can do out there… you’re on your own. As soon as Mr. Chaplin heard the police were being called, he got out of the car, threw the door open, and lunged at Mr. Johnson. Mr. Johnson pushed him back and he came again at Mr. Johnson… and he shot. That was the fatal shot.”

She said that the ambulance took “approximately twenty more minutes to come” and “the whole time Mr. Johnson, with his wife screaming and crying the background, held a sweatshirt to [Chaplin’s] wound and tried to keep him alive. He was crying according to the 911 call.”

At this point in the hearing, Johnson began sobbing loudly on the phone. With his crying on the phone still in the background, Green continued to make a case for reinstating bail. 

She said after the incident Johnson “immediately” went to the police, co-operated, and handed over evidence. Green said that the actions of the police on scene reinforced her case.

“He was not arrested. You get the sense that the police had a sense of what he was like and what happened here in his driveway.”

She added that after the incident, Johnson and his wife had gone to grief counseling and employed a therapist to “help them because this was such a frightening, traumatic, and sad experience for them.” 

Green described the events of Johnson’s October 29 arrest from what she said was his perspective.

“These people are not part of our world. They are just living their lives. They employed an attorney to help them… they didn’t know what was going to happen. It wasn’t until Friday the 29th that the State Police decided to charge him. Late on Friday afternoon, they sent five troopers. Mr. Johnson co-operated and went to prison.”

She said that “this court set… high bail” of $100,000. Johnson found a bail bondsman who would take $7,500 instead of the usual 10% required to secure his release. Green said that Johnson raised that money through “friends and family and people in the community. A bunch of people here took responsibility for his release.” She added “the bail bondsman agreed to hold off charging him the remainder, the $2,500, so [the Johnsons] could put it together. So, the bail bondsman felt safe enough to do that.”

Green said “this is a person who could be released on his own recognizance. If the court didn’t want to do that, it can be guaranteed that Mr. Johnson and his wife as a custodian would absolutely abide by whatever conditions. Of course, he would like to work, and his employer would like him to work, as well.”

Green said that Johnson did not know Chaplin but had worked with him years ago. She switched to the diminutive of Robert Chaplin’s name and said “sometimes Robby would need a ride, and [Johnson] would give him a ride. That’s how Robby knew where he lived.”

Green said that no one expected Chaplin to go to his house, and “certainly the police didn’t expect it.”

She said, “[Chaplin] said he was going to go to Mr. Johnson’s house. The police didn’t go out there. It was shocking to have him actually show up and make good on that promise. The only implication is that he was there for no good, to do harm.”

Green asked Judge Warren for Johnson to have bail reinstated, and “for his wellbeing, he be allowed to work [while] on release.”