The Terrence Johnson Defense Fund, formed a month ago to raise funds for the defense of the 15 year-old Bladensburg youth accused of killing two Prince George's County police officers, has drawn support from several groups that include the Prince George's County NAACP and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference.
At a news conference last week, the Rev. Perry Smith, head of the Concerned Clergy of Prince George's County, said his group would hold a Terrence Johnson Defense Fund day on Oct. 8, asking all churches in the area to collect money for Johnson's defense.
"We believe that Terrence is innocent and the evidence will exonerate him," Smith said. "But it may take as much as $100,000 to ensure that he receives a good defense and a fair trial."
Johnson was arrested the morning of June 26 after he allegedly shot and killed Prince George's County police officers Albert M. Claggett IV and James Brian Swart while being booked at the Hyattsville police station.
Johnson and his brother Melvin had been picked up by Claggett and Swart on suspicion of larceny at about 2 a.m. Claggett reportedly was preparing to fingerprint Johnson at about 2:40 a.m. when the youth allegedly grabbed Claggett's gun out of his hoister, shot him and then shot Swart when he rushed into the room.
The following day District Court Judge Louis D. Trani set bond for Johnson at $1.05 million. Johnson has been in custody at the county detention center in Upper Marlboro since then. He pleaded not guilty on both ahooting charges.
Johnson is scheduled for a waiver hearing before Circuit Court Judge Vincent Femia Oct. 13 to determine whether he will be tried as a juvenile or an adult. The trial itself has been assigned to Judge Jacob S. Levi. A status hearing was conducted by Levin last week.
R. Kennedy Mundy, one of Johnson's three lawyers, along with Joseph Gibson and Alan Lemchek, said last week that they would ask Levin to reduce bond at that time. Mundy also said he was considering filing a motion asking for a change of venue.
Smith criticized state's attorney Arthur A. Marshall Jr. for prosecuting the case himself. "We are especially concerned that stat's attorney Arthur Marshall has chosen to personally try this case, after spending nearly three years away from the courtroom.
"This occurrence is most significant in light of Mr. Marshall's refusal to personally seek indictments in two cases where blacks were slain by county police officers after NAACP and black community leaders urged his personal involvement," Smith said.
Marshall refused to comment on the case itself but said that in his 15 years in office he has prosecuted all cases involving the deaths of police officers. He said that if Peter P. Morgan, one of the officers who shot and killed a black in another incident last December, had been indicted, he would have prosecuted the case himself.
Other groups represented at the defense fund news conference were The Black United Front, the Prisoner's Rights Coalition and the Committee Church of Christ.
Carol Garyin of the Prisoner's Rights Coalition said her group planned a "Free Terrence Johnson" rally at the detention center on Sept. 23.