Jury deliberations continue on Wednesday in murder trial of Marlene Johnson

Pierce (Submitted photo)
Pierce (Submitted photo)

SALISBURY, NC (WBTV) - The jury elected a foreman and deliberated for about 45 minutes before being sent home for the evening in the murder trial of Marlene Johnson.

On Tuesday, prosecutors told the jury that Johnson had killed Shirley Pierce in a violent, brutal attack.

"She (Marlene Johnson) is the person who did this, she is responsible for killing Shirley Pierce," said Rowan County District Attorney Brandy Cook.  "The last person Shirley Pierce ever saw was the person who hated her the most."

Cook presented her closing argument to the jury on Tuesday morning, pointing out among other things that Marlene Johnson asked her boyfriend to provide her with an alibi before she could even known that Pierce had been murdered, unless she had been the one who killed her.

At one point while Cook was talking, Johnson stood straight up and said "Your Honor!"  The judge immediately stopped court and had the jury to leave the courtroom.

Once the jury was gone, Johnson said "May I speak?"  The judge replied "No."

Judge Stuart Albright then scolded Johnson for her "absolutely inappropriate" behavior, saying "you elected not to testify, don't start trying to testify now."

Defense attorneys James Davis and Jay White argued that Johnson was not guilty, and that Pierce had been killed by an unknown male assailant.

They told the jury that the investigation that resulted in charges against Johnson was a "rush to judgment" and that had been "flawed and biased."

"Do not reward the state for a poor investigation," White told the jury. "Let Marlene Johnson go home to her family."

On Monday the prosecution wrapped up its case. The defense, led by James Davis of Salisbury and Jay White of Concord, did not present any evidence or witnesses.

Johnson is charged with the July, 2013, murder of Shirley Goodnight Pierce.


Prosecutors say that Johnson killed Pierce because she was convinced that Pierce was having an affair with her estranged husband.  That man, Ervin Johnson, was CFO of Tuscarora Yarns.

Investigators say they have not uncovered any evidence of such an affair.

If convicted, Johnson, who turned 66 today, could face life in prison.

Jury deliberations continue on Wednesday beginning at 9:30 am.

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