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Killer laughs at death

White supremacist Billy Joe Johnson jokes with attorneys as judge reveals his fate for killing fellow gang member.

November 23, 2009|By Joseph Serna

He walked into court like it was just another day. Other than the jingling of his shackles, nothing in Costa Mesa-native and white supremacist Billy Joe Johnson’s appearance — an untucked, wrinkled dress shirt and blue pants — or demeanor — joking with his lawyer and the prosecutor — indicated that he was about to be sentenced to death.

“A lot of people say it and are full of it, but Billy Joe just doesn’t care,” said his attorney, Michael Molfetta.

Johnson, 46, was convicted last month of killing fellow skinhead gang member Scott Miller in 2002 and was sentenced to death by Orange County Superior Court Judge Frank F. Fasel on Monday morning.

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It’s what everyone expected, and what Johnson wanted.

On death row at San Quentin State Prison, Johnson will be afforded a bigger one-man cell, television, more time out of his cell and visits where he can have physical contact with his visitor, Molfetta said. Had he been sentenced to life without parole, Johnson would have been in Pelican Bay State Prison’s Security Housing Unit and given only a few hours a week out of his one-man cell, Molfetta said.

“It’s nicer ... but the price you have to pay is a lot steeper,” Molfetta said.

It’s a price Johnson didn’t seem to fear paying during his trial. On the stand, Johnson readily admitted to killing Miller, a second man in 2004, a fellow prisoner in 1991, and at least two other men authorities don’t know about.

His only concern is that his mother not witness his execution, Molfetta said. It can take more than a decade to be executed, and Johnson is confident he’ll be around for a while, Molfetta said.

While Fasel read his sentence and listed Johnson’s rights to appeals, Johnson was busy chatting up Molfetta and Deputy Dist. Atty. Ebrahim Baytieh. Molfetta said Johnson joked that they should have a group hug. He also needled Molfetta about the New York Giants’ defense.

No one was there to speak on Johnson’s behalf, and he elected not to address the court. Scott Miller’s mother, Bonnie, was there but chose not to give an impact statement. She choked up after the proceedings and said she’s glad it’s all over.

“I’m hoping that I never have to go to court again,” she said.


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