Florida Cop Killer’s Sentencing Overturned by Court for Third Time
Paul Johnson Had His Death Sentence Overturned Again
Tallahassee, FL – The Florida Supreme Court overturned the death sentence for convicted cop killer Paul Beasley Johnson, age 65, on Thursday, for the third time. The Court ordered a new sentencing hearing for Johnson again despite two separate Governors signing his death warrant in the past. Johnson was convicted of three murders in his initial trial: a cab driver, a subject who picked him up to give him a ride, and a deputy sheriff.
According to news sources, on January 8, 1981, Paul Johnson had been shooting up crystal meth with his wife and friends, and told a witness that he was going to get money to buy more drugs even if it meant he had to shoot someone. Johnson called for a cab and made a decision to kidnap, rob, and kill the taxi driver.
After the cab from Winter Haven arrived and picked Johnson up, he kidnapped the cab driver, William Evans, age 55, and placed him in the trunk of the cab. Johnson then drove around in the cab and stopped at a remote spot in an orange grove. He shot Evans twice, with the second shot going through Evans’ right eye. William Evans was not found until later, and he died from his injuries.
On that same evening, not long after Paul Johnson shot William Evans, he met a couple, Darrell Ray Beasley, age 21, and Amy Reid, in the parking lot of a Lakeland restaurant, and asked them to give him a ride to a friend’s house. They agreed, and during the ride, Johnson asked them to pull over so he could go to the bathroom. Johnson convinced Beasley to get out of the vehicle and shot and killed him. Reid, who had stayed in the vehicle, saw Johnson pull the gun on Beasley, moved quickly from the passenger seat to the driver’s seat, and left in a hurry to get help.
Per news sources, Polk County Sheriff’s Office Deputy Theron A. Burnham, age 27, responded to the area where Johnson was last seen and observed him walking down the road. Deputy Burnham’s last message to dispatchers was that he believed he had located the suspect, Johnson.
PCSO Deputy Burnham then confronted Paul Johnson and attempted to take Johnson into custody. Johnson resisted arrest and began fighting Deputy Burnham. During the struggle, Johnson was able to take Polk County SO Deputy Burnham’s firearm, and shot him near his armpit. The bullet entered Deputy Burnham’s chest. Polk County Sheriff’s Office Deputy Burnham was left for dead on the side of the road and later died. His body was found that night by law enforcement officers.
Other law enforcement officers arrived on the scene, including a now retired Polk County Sheriff’s Office Deputy, Sam Allison. During Johnson’s initial trial, PCSO Deputy Allison told the court that he had encountered Johnson when Johnson walked up to his vehicle. Deputy Allison said that Johnson told him a man or an officer had been shot and was lying in a nearby ditch. He also said that Johnson called him a son of a bitch and threatened to shoot him, too. Polk County SO Deputy Allison said that he opened his car door to hit Johnson and that he and his partner exchanged gunfire with Johnson. Johnson fled into nearby woods, and was later taken into custody.
The Florida Supreme Court said that judges could not determine defendants’ sentences and that sentencing was the responsibility of the jury, according to two previous U.S. Supreme Court rulings that required juries, not judges, to determine sentencing for a defendant.
During one sentencing hearing, Beasley’s daughter Jessica Beasley said that she “was robbed of the opportunity to have a man in my life who would protect me and love me like no other,” and that what she “was given was many years of questioning, confusion, anger, heartache, abandonment issues and lots of counseling.”
Polk County Sheriff’s Office Deputy Theron Burnham was 27-years-old when he was shot and killed by Johnson, and had been with the PCSO for almost six years. During the same sentencing hearing, Deputy Burnham’s widow Cindy became too emotional to finish testifying. Instead, the Prosecutor read her statement, which said that one of her brothers told her father that night of his son’s death, and her other brother told her of her husband’s death.
The daughter of the cab driver, Linda Evans Collins, was also unable to testify, and provided a statement which talked about the nightmares that she has each year on the anniversary of his death.
During the trial, Amy Reid, the passenger in the vehicle that Darrel Beasley was driving, testified that Johnson did not appear to be on drugs when they gave him a ride. She said that he appeared normal or they wouldn’t have give him a ride.
The Prosecutors’ arguments have always been that Johnson should receive the death penalty for his murderous rampage on that night in 1981. Johnson’s defense attorneys claim that he is brain damaged, and should receive a life sentence because of his drug use. Appellate courts have consistently upheld Johnson’s convictions. In one trial, the Judge described Johnson’s murders of Evans, Beasley, and Burnham as “execution style killings” and that his sole motive was to obtain money to get more drugs.
According to Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd, “Paul Beasley Johnson is a vicious, cold-blooded murderer.”
We ask, where is the justice for the families of these victims? Where is the justice for Warren Evans, Darrell Beasley, and fallen hero Polk County Sheriff’s Office Deputy Theron Burnham?
Do you think Paul Johnson should get any leniency because of his drug use? Please let us know on Facebook or in the comments below.