There are many ways murder defendants can avoid the death penalty. Delays in trials usually prolong life. A ruling from an appeals court overturning the conviction is probably the most common. A last-minute reprieve from the governor just before the warden says "begin the execution" is the most dramatic.
But, Alfred Houston Johnson found a new way to avoid potentially being convicted of murder and sentenced to death: dying. The 56-year-old Johnson was five days away from the start of his first-degree murder trial in Tulsa County. The Tulsa World reported that on Sept. 8, Johnson was admitted to a hospital for scabies, a contagious disease that is caused by the skin being infested with mites. He also was diagnosed with diabetes, hypertension, an ulcer and hepatitis C with cirrhosis, according to a medical report cited by the Tulsa World.
Johnson was to go on trial on charges of murdering his girlfriend, Deborah Lynn Wilson, at his Broken Arrow home in December 2004. The story reported authorities believe the couple had been in a "mutually violent" relationship for years. Police were called out to the home several times for domestic disturbance but charges rarely were filed by either party.
Had Johnson been convicted and sentenced to death, now would be a good time to face capital punishment. State Attorney General Drew Edmondson has called for a moratorium on executions until the U.S. Supreme Court rules on the constitutionality of execution by lethal injection. The court will decide the case in the next 10 months.
Johnson didn't depart this world without leaving a nice thank you to the taxpayers of Oklahoma: He stuck the state with a $100,000 hospital bill, the World reported.