Johnny V. Johnson, a 19-year-old from Chicago Heights, appeared in court on Sept. 27 to face first-degree murder charges in the death of Romane D. Taylor Jr., his reported accomplice in an alleged attempted burglary.
With his bail set at $500,000, Johnson remains in custody with the Cook County Department of Corrections. Inside the courtroom, Johnson wore a fresh close-shaved haircut and drab beige prison scrubs.
He stood expressionless as the prosecutor and judge conversed briefly with his private defense attorney, David F. Will. It was a change from Sept. 24, when Johnson appeared wearing a vague grimace on his face and the same shaggy haircut from his police booking photo.
Nearly three dozen friends and family members crowded into one side of the gallery at Cook County Sixth Municipal District Courthouse in Markham. Johnson’s mother sat in the front row, her hands folded in her lap as she watched her son be led from the side door to the bench of Judge Luciano Panici.
Johnson was charged following his arrest. The Cook County State’s Attorney’s office sent the case to a grand jury and an indictment with formal charges, along with a trial date, are expected to be announced at a hearing on Oct. 10.
Johnson’s murder charge stems from an incident on Sept. 1 in Homewood, when Johnson and Taylor allegedly lured an unnamed juvenile acquaintance to their location, where they intended to rob him, according to police.
All three were in possession of firearms, police said. Taylor fired his weapon at the acquaintance. That person returned fire, shooting Taylor in the stomach. According to the Cook County Medical Examiner, Taylor was pronounced dead at Advocate Christ Hospital at Oak Lawn at 8:45 p.m. Sept. 1.
Though Johnson did not shoot Taylor, he is being charged under a statute known as the Illinois felony murder rule,* which states that a suspect may be charged with murder if someone dies during the commission of certain felonies to which they were a party.
“I look forward to mounting a zealous defense of this young man,” said Will, Johnson’s attorney, through a text. “The homicide in this case was at the hands of another, who is purported to have been justified for taking the life of another. Mr. Johnson did not shoot or kill anyone.”
Because the individual who shot Taylor is a juvenile, records related to that person’s case are not available to the public or the media.
After the Sept. 24 court hearing, Johnson’s supporters gathered in the hallway to pray with a man identified as Johnson’s pastor. Johnson’s parents and members of the group strongly declined to comment.
* The story originally referred to the charge as “federal murder.” The correct term is “felony murder.”