Court Again Upholds Death Sentence in Bay Area Slaying

From Associated Press

The state Supreme Court upheld--for the second time--the death sentence of a Richmond man for the shotgun killing of a woman in a home robbery, saying that new evidence failed to prove the man’s innocence.

The court unanimously upheld a judge’s finding that an accomplice of Willie D. Johnson had lied in a post-trial statement when he tried to blame the killing on Johnson’s now-dead brother. The accomplice, John Allen Duchine, took part in the robbery and is serving a life sentence for murder.

Johnson, 37, was convicted of killing Willie Womble in her Richmond home in July 1986. Johnson was tentatively identified by Womble’s daughter, who was shot and wounded, and was positively identified by Duchine.

Duchine switched his story twice. He first testified against Johnson, in a 1987 trial that ended in Johnson’s conviction and death sentence. But after the state Supreme Court upheld the sentence in 1992, Duchine offered a new sworn statement saying that the gunman had been Johnson’s brother Timothy, a drug dealer who was shot to death in 1989.

The state Supreme Court appointed Contra Costa County Superior Court Judge Richard Patsey to look into the case. In a hearing before Patsey, Duchine returned to his trial testimony and said Willie Johnson was the killer.