Jashawn Owen Anthony Johnson has been convicted of murder in relation to the 2020 Christmas Eve stabbing death of Michael Aaron Bush.
Johnson, 21, killed Bush following a heated confrontation after he was denied entry into the Casa nightclub at the Strand shopping complex on West Bay Road.
Johnson has never denied killing Bush; instead he claimed it was an act of self-defence.
“It is clear from the CCTV evidence that the deceased was volatile, confrontational, erratic and acting in a belligerent manner,” said Justice Roger Chapple as he read from his judgment via video link on Thursday, 2 Sept.
During the week-long judge-alone trial, Johnson told the court the large kitchen knife used to stab Bush three times belonged to his friend and was stored in the car they were travelling in, on the night of the incident.
An initial confrontation between Johnson and Bush, which was captured on CCTV footage, showed Bush instigating the incident by pushing and slapping Johnson. The video showed a female security officer stepping between both men and pulling Johnson behind her.
“I went to the car and armed myself with the knife, because I felt threatened, and like my life was in danger,” said Johnson during the trial while answering questions from his attorney.
CCTV later showed Johnson returning to the corridor outside Casa nightclub, where he would go on to instigate a second encounter during which, armed with the knife, he approached Bush and his friends.
After being struck in the head by Bush’s female companion, Johnson pulled out the knife, prompting Bush to flee.
“[When initially questioned by your lawyer] you denied chasing Bush. You said you were running because you feared for your life,” Chapple told Johnson. “Then when you were questioned by prosecution, you admitted to chasing Bush, with the intention of doing whatever it takes to ensure you were safe.
“These are two conflicting and contradicting statements; and this was not the only time when you gave conflicting evidence.”
Chapple highlighted the conflicting statements made by Johnson during the trial and what he initially told police in a written statement.
“You said that your statement was both true and a lie,” said Chapple. “In your original statement you said you used your knife which you kept on you at all times to ‘juk’ him twice when he started holding on to you and hitting you, and that caused him to let you go.
“However, when giving evidence you said the knife belonged to your friend, and that you retrieved it from the car.”
Chapple pointed out that one potential reason for Johnson’s deception was to protect his friend, and that “because he lied in his statement does not mean he was guilty of the offence”.
When arriving at the guilty verdict, Chapple said he had used the background of the incident, coupled with common sense and the “reasonable person test”.
“I ask myself, why did he need to retrieve a large knife? Why did he leave the car and return to the party? …Why did he walk back towards the deceased? Why did he chase the deceased?”
In answering those questions, Chapple said he was “driven to the conclusion that a number of key aspects of the defendant’s evidence is untrue”.
He added, “I believe his lies were meant to conceal his true intention which was to even the score, or to teach the deceased a lesson about disrespecting him.”
Chapple said no reasonable 20-year-old male of an average temperament would have acted like Johnson.
He added that had Johnson had the knife on him, and in the heat of the moment drew the weapon and retaliated, then perhaps those circumstances might have amounted to a degree of self-defence.
“I suspect that the fatal blow occurred while you were chasing Mr. Bush. However, if it was not the case and the fatal blow was delivered during the second interaction, there is no way that the defence of self-defence can be used,” said Chapple.
Chapple returned a guilty verdict and Johnson was remanded into custody where he will await his sentencing in November.