Prosecution: “Nothing Here That Even Smells of Self-defense”

by Doug McClure

NEWPORT – State’s Attorney Jennifer Barrett laid out an argument as to why Darryl Johnson should remain in custody without bail, beginning with Judge Lisa Warren’s own decision at the November 1 arraignment to continue holding Johnson without bail until evidence was presented.

Barrett said “[Postponement of the hearing] doesn’t change the fact that the defendant’s charged with murder, and the presumption is he be held. The state’s review of the evidence, the media we’ve reviewed … and the surveillance video, all the stuff that we made available for the defense yesterday but they weren’t able to pick up, shows a very different story than what’s being portrayed by [Johnson’s defense] attorney [Kelly] Green. That’s precisely why the court should not release him pending a weight of evidence hearing.”

Barrett sought to remind the court of the state’s allegations in its sixteen-page Affidavit of Probable Cause. She implied that while Judge Warren had read what the judge had on November 1 called a “significantly lengthy” affidavit showing the case to be “extremely serious and extremely violent,” seeing the materials first-hand would amplify the state’s allegations.

Barret said “the video at the Hardwick convenience store shows the defendant [Johnson] as the aggressor. He says, ‘I’ve had enough,’ and you see him violently shoving the victim [Chaplin] out of the store, hard, multiple times, across the store, across the parking lot. [Chaplin] does nothing to protect himself, and at the end of the video, you see the defendant waving [Chaplin] off, like ‘whatever’—not someone who appears to be afraid. The defendant himself tells law enforcement ‘if [Chaplin] comes to my house, I’m going to f—— kill him.’ And law enforcement says, ‘Well, don’t do that unless you’re afraid for your life.'”

Barrett said that Johnson “invited [Chaplin]” to come to his house, telling Chaplin “‘Come to my house. ‘I have loaded guns.’ They have this whole dialog about it there, but he invites [Chaplin] there [to his house]. Not to mention that at the store [Johnson] just says [Chaplin] said ‘I know where you live’ or something to [that effect]. Not ‘I’m gonna kill you’ or anything like that. “[Johnson] goes home, he moves his motor vehicles, and as his wife describes it, they were afraid their windshields might be damaged, or their cars might be damaged.”

She referenced the timestamped surveillance mentioned in the affidavit. Police say the video shows “Johnson is seen walking outside with spotlight/flashlight and the .22 revolver” nearly half an hour before Chaplin drove up.

“The defendant waits for him and as soon as he arrives not even three seconds he’s out of the house and he has a gun to his head. This is on video.”

She described the state’s version of the shooting in detail, adding that the court could only fully understand the situation by viewing the videos the state had intended to present at the scheduled evidentiary hearing.

“[Johnson] hits [Chaplin] with the barrel of the gun so much you can see the victim’s head move over, as [Johnson’s] saying ‘you feel that barrel?’ 

“At this point, Chaplin is not the aggressor. He’s sitting in his car, he’s drinking a beer, and you can hear him as he has a gun pointed to his head, [Johnson saying] ‘can you feel that? you threatened me earlier.’ And you can hear the victim say ‘I ain’t,’ like ‘I’m not threatening you.’ 

“So, then the defendant tells him he can’t leave, now he’s detaining him. You have a guy who presumably he’s been drinking alcohol, sitting in his car, with a beer, has never exited his car and now the defendant reaches in, tries to take his keys, and is detaining him. 

“And when [Chaplin] tries to exit the car [Johnson] shoots him, and by his own admission, he pulls the trigger three times. 

“[Johnson] pulls the trigger. Pulls the trigger again. And then realizes the safety’s still on. Shuts the safety off and shoots him. Then, law enforcement arrives, and what is the first thing he says to law enforcement? ‘I told ya. I told ya what, I was gonna shoot him.’ That’s what he’s saying, his first response to law enforcement.”

Barrett concluded her response by telling Judge Warren “This is not a case of self-defense. The defendant himself said that [Chaplin] was unarmed, that he didn’t see any weapons, that he was not assaulted in any way, and by his own admission the very worst that happened [to Johnson] was a push. There’s nothing here that even smells of self-defense.”