UPDATE: Harve Johnson and Nedia Benz
JURY GIVES HARVE JOHNSON THE DEATH SENTENCE
Jurors took 95 minutes on Monday to decide Harve L. Johnson should die for fatally beating 2-year-old Darisabel Baez, in what they also decided was a case of torture.
It was about five minutes longer than they took to convict him on Friday of first-degree murder.
The six-man, six-woman jury rejected an impassioned plea by defense attorney Ari Weitzman to spare Johnson’s life, and also rejected the argument that Johnson’s own horrendous childhood should be taken into consideration when deciding his fate.
Jurors unanimously agreed Johnson should die for his crime. The only other possible punishment was life in prison without the possibility of parole.
Darisabel’s murder captured the attention of not only the York community, but the worldwide community, via online reports.
Chief deputy prosecutor Chris Moore said he saw at least 10 prospective jurors, who were ultimately rejected for the jury, attending Johnson’s trial last week simply to watch.
“That’s unheard of,” he said. “Everybody’s so invested in the case.”
He said the community didn’t forget Darisabel, and that the intense interest in the trial showed people were concerned Johnson might not be held accountable.
Police officers who initially responded to Darisabel’s 710 W. Philadelphia St. home on April 6, 2008 — the day she was beaten — as well as county workers and a York Hospital trauma nurse who photographed Darisabel’s injuries, crowded the courtroom on Friday for Johnson’s guilty verdict. Many returned on Monday to hear his punishment.
They cried and hugged on Friday. Nurse Patti O’Brien later said that while police and emergency responders regularly witness heartbreaking tragedies, Darisabel’s case left an indelible mark on all of them.
People walking and driving past the courthouse reacted to Johnson’s punishment by pumping their fists or exclaiming “Yes!” Some simply nodded, but all knew about the case and wanted the death penalty for Johnson.
Prosecutor Tim Barker acknowledged “it’s a very difficult thing” to ask a jury to impose the “ultimate sentence.”
“But we had to do that, because that’s what justice required,” he said. “Darisabel still died a torturous death … that’s forever a loss to society.”
Darisabel’s grandmother, Margarita Leon, did not comment as she left the courthouse. Weitzman and fellow defense attorney Rick Robinson also declined comment.
Last Friday, the same jury took less than two hours to convict Harve Johnson of that first-degree murder charge. Details are available on this video:
In case you’ve forgotten, Harve Johson beat 2-year-old Darisabel Baez with a video game controller back in April of 2008. He beat her because she had the nerve to keep waking up every day a 5:00am. He though a good whupping would teach her to sleep later, so he, Harve Johnson, could sleep undisturbed.
The highlight of Harve Johnson’s trial was the testimony of Nedia Benz, the mother of Darisabel Baez. Baez had already plead guilty to third-degree murder for failing to intervene while Johnson was beating her daughter to death. Here are some excerpts from a York Dispatch article detailing Baez’ testimony:
Baez, 21, recounted the minutes leading up to her daughter’s death in their former 710 W. Philadelphia St. home. She said she’d first awakened that day about 5 a.m., when Darisabel walked into the living room where Baez and Johnson slept.
Angered that his sleep had been interrupted, Johnson ordered Darisabel to stand in the corner. She was still there about noon, when the couple woke up for the day, Johnson said.
But Johnson was still angry, Baez said.
“(He) swatted her in the butt,” she said, “and her diaper popped.”
Feces and bits of diaper soiled the little girl’s clothing and the floor, the mother testified.
Baez — who has pleaded guilty to third-degree murder and is expected to be sentenced to five to 10 years in prison — said she cleaned up both her daughter and the mess on the floor.
“That’s when Mr. Harve Johnson grabbed her from me” and carried Darisabel to another room, Baez said.
‘She didn’t deserve it’: “He was hitting her … she was crying,” Baez recounted. “I told him … she didn’t deserve it. He told me to mind my business and go into the other room.”
Baez said she went back to the living room.
“I could hear the whistle of the remote control” as it whipped through the air and hit Darisabel, she said, and at times could see Johnson wielding the device. During the beating, Darisabel cried for her mother and Baez cried for Johnson to stop, she said.
She didn’t summon help because “I was scared, ’cause Harve threatened he would hit me too,” Baez told jurors.
Baez said eventually, Darisabel stopped crying, at which point she heard Johnson running the water in the bathroom. They’d just moved into the apartment a few days before, and had no heat or hot water, she said.
‘What did you do?’: “Harve brings Darisabel to me and she’s wet. She was limp. She wasn’t moving,” Baez said. “I was asking him, ‘What did you do to her?’
“I took her to the kitchen and started giving her CPR,” she said, during which Darisabel threw up blood and briefly began breathing again.
“She was wheezing … three times,” Baez said, and then the toddler stopped breathing.
At that point, Baez yelled for Johnson to call 911 and he went to a neighbor’s home and used their phone to do so. Police said he left the house as officers arrived, but returned later and was arrested.
Darisabel’s wounds were widespread and severe, including injuries to the brain, chest, heart, liver, neck, extremities and vagina, her autopsy report states. The report states that “the amount of beating is extensive and indicative of torture.
Now ol’ Harve Johnson will sit on death row and wait for his sentence to be carried out. Unfortunately, his life will end much more humanely than his victim’s did. Instead of hours and hours of vicious beatings by a bully and a coward, Harve will just go to sleep and never wake up. No matter how hard I try, I can never talk myself into believing that’s justice. I do believe this is the best justice a civilized society can give, however, and that I can live with.
Woops, I Almost Forgot To Thank Missy For Tipping Me Off About Harve Johnson’s Fate. Well Done Missy.
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