Despite claims of innocence, Carol Heath's daughter says Stacey Johnson is guilty

SHE WITNESSED THE MURDER OF HER MOTHER, BUT COURT DOCUMENTS SAY SHE MAY HAVE BEEN PRESSURED BY FAMILY AND PROSECUTORS TO HELP CONVICT STACEY JOHNSON

By Katlyn Gardenhire and Michael Buckner
thv11.com

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (KTHV) - The Heath family have been waiting for Stacey Johnson to be executed for 2 decades and now that Johnson’s execution date has come and gone, they feel they may never get justice for their loved one.

Ashley Heath's mother, Carol Heath, was murdered in 1993 in her duplex apartment in DeQueen. She was beaten, strangled, and her throat was slit while her two young children watched. At the time, Heath was only 6-years-old and her brother Jonathan was only two.

Stacey Johnson was convicted for the murder of Heath's mother, but was given a stay of execution Thursday so his attorneys could argue for new DNA testing in the case. Johnson was originally set to be executed that evening.

While Johnson maintains his innocence, Heath said she knows he murdered her mother.

"He beat my mom, he raped my mom, he strangled my mom, he cut my mom's throat," Heath said. "There was blood everywhere, there wasn't a part of the living room that didn't have blood on it."

Attorneys for Johnson have called into question Heath's testimony at his second trial. His first conviction was overturned after Heath had been found "not mentally competent" to testify due to her age. During the second trial, she was allowed to testify after Johnson's defense was not allowed to see documents from Heath's second therapist.

Johnson's defense was able to unseal those documents after his second conviction was affirmed by the Arkansas Supreme Court. In those documents, it was discovered that her therapist said Heath's stories were "profoundly inconsistent" and had been under pressure from her family and the prosecutor to convict Johnson.

In a dissenting opinion, Justice Robert L. Brown gave several samples of the therapist's notes. The therapist wrote that the district attorney at the time told Heath she was the only one that could "keep [Johnson] behind bars." Her therapist also said that at times she was "parroting" other family members.

"Her grandmother told Ashley that she 'has to keep him behind bars,'" said the therapist in her notes.

According to the notes, the therapist claimed that Heath's grandmother "emphasized" how much responsibility was on Heath's shoulders and that if Johnson's sentence was overturned, "Ashley will feel total responsibility."

But, Heath said that even to this day she's scared of Stacey Johnson.

"With Stacey Johnson, it's getting to the point where I'm just done. I'm fed up, I'm sick of coming up here," she claimed.

Since Johnson was granted a stay of execution she feels there's no justice in Arkansas.

"I feel like if you're going to give somebody the death penalty, you should carry it out," she said. "If you don't want to do the death penalty anymore, you should give life in prison as the final punishment."

As for the lawyers and judges granting these stays, she thinks they're giving prisoners a second chance they don't deserve.

"It makes Arkansas look like you can go out and do the most destructive and hatred crime in Arkansas and get away with murder," she said emotionally.

Johnson's attorneys have asked for new DNA testing because they claim his original trial didn't allow for testing of sexual assault evidence. The attorneys also assert that Heath's boyfriend at the time had a history of domestic assault, but police never investigated him.

During the investigation of Carol Heath's murder, it was discovered she had been bitten on one of her breasts. The ex-wife of Heath's boyfriend testified that he abused her during their marriage, which included biting her breast at one point.

"This is not some sort of last-minute, hail mary pass," said Bryce Benjet with the Innocence Project. "Johnson asked for DNA testing in earlier appeals, but those requests were denied by state and federal courts. There have been revolutionary advancements in DNA testing since this case was initially investigated which could tell once and for all who actually committed this crime."

Despite the new motions to prove Johnson's innocence, Heath said she knows Johnson is guilty and she wants justice for her mom.

"Pull up all the crime scene photos of all the victims and tell me if any of these men deserve any clemency," she said.

While the law has promised closure in the form of executions, the Heath family still have an open wound from the death of Carol Heath that they wish they could close shut.

http://www.thv11.com/news/local/desp...ilty/433288561