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Man's convictions upheld in 2011 Golden Hill killings of father and son

Posted at 3:01 PM, Jun 22, 2022
and last updated 2022-06-22 18:01:41-04

SAN DIEGO (CNS) — A state appeals court panel upheld murder convictions Wednesday for a man found guilty of gunning down a father and son at a Golden Hill bus stop more than a decade ago.

Marlon Johnson, 44, was convicted by a San Diego jury in 2019 and later sentenced to 112 years to life in state prison for the Jan. 9, 2011, slayings of 49-year-old Darryl Hunter and Hunter's son, 30-year-old Keith Butler.

The trial was Johnson's third in less than a year in connection with the shooting, with two other jury panels deadlocking.

Prosecutors alleged Johnson got into an argument with the victims at a bus stop at 30th and C streets, then shot Hunter four times and Butler once in the back. One bullet entered a passing car, causing a piece of the vehicle to strike and injure its driver.

Hunter was found lying in the street, while Butler ran to his girlfriend's nearby apartment and told her to call 911. He then collapsed, gravely wounded. Hunter and Butler died at separate hospitals.

At trial, Deputy District Attorney Valerie Summers alleged that after the shooting, Johnson fled the scene in a distinctive car that belonged to his girlfriend. She said Johnson's DNA was found on cigarette butts in the car and at the shooting scene, while cell phone tower data placed him at that location as well as others in the city, corroborating witness accounts.

Summers also alleged that Johnson told his then-girlfriend that he'd gotten "into it with a couple guys who tried to rob me" on the night of the shooting.

Johnson was identified early in the investigation as a potential suspect, but detectives did not have enough evidence to charge him until 2016, when they said new evidence had been obtained that implicated him in the double homicide.

He was arrested in Arkansas, at which point Summers said he denied ever driving the suspect vehicle, being in San Diego on the date of the shooting or knowing his then-girlfriend, though the prosecutor said evidence collected at the apartment they shared indicated that was a lie.

Defense attorney Kevin Haughton alleged Johnson was near the scene of the shooting when it happened, but simply tried "to get out of there," just like numerous other witnesses who fled the scene after the shots rang out.

He also said some witnesses had pointed to the shooting victims as the aggressors who had his client "backed up against a wall" and were "coming at him in an aggressive manner."

On appeal, Johnson's contentions include that the jury was allowed to hear prejudicial hearsay evidence and expert opinions. He also alleged that the delay of more than five years between the shooting and charges filed against him violated his due process rights, though the three-justice appellate panel said the delay was reasonable.

Though Johnson's convictions were affirmed, the appellate court did rule that a judge should re-sentence Johnson and re-examine whether a series of gun enhancements should remain imposed against him. Should the enhancements be struck, his overall prison sentence would likely be reduced.