Second teen acquitted of murder in death of Hoover veteran Mike Gilotti
JEFFERSON COUNTY, Ala. —
A second teen was acquitted of murder in the shooting death of Hoover war veteran Mike Gilotti.
A Jefferson County jury deliberated for less than six hours before finding 19- year old Ahmad Johnson not guilty of eight counts including murder other counts of breaking and entering into cars.
The jury did find him guilty on two counts of receiving stolen property- one count for a car, and the other for a gun he was found with. In his closing argument, defense attorney Bret Gray told the jury Johnson was guilty of those two charges.
Gray succeeded convincing the jury his client did not commit murder. He told them Johnson was never in Lake Cyrus, which is where the slaying happened.
“Relieved,” Johnson’s mother, Chaka, rejoiced after the verdict. “Thanking God, praying and I believe justice was served. My son wasn’t guilty. I do pray for the family to find some peace at this time. I’m very grateful. Very grateful.”
“There’s still a hole in their life and we weren’t able to give them any answers,” Prosecutor Lane Tolbert said of Gilotti’s family. “Mike was not killed by a shadow. He was killed by 4 guys and it’s pretty obvious who was involved and we couldn’t get any justice for her.”
Tolbert says he believes one reason the jury returned a not guilty verdict for murder is that the panel did not find the state's star witness credible. That witness was one of the four teenagers charged with murder in the case. He is being charged as a youthful offender in exchange for his cooperation, and thus is not able to be named in this story.
“The jury apparently did not find the codefendant who testified credible,” said Tolbert. “That was our biggest weakness. We knew that going in. That’s why we tried to show the jury that what he said was believable and backed up by other circumstances. We thought we did it. The jury apparently disagreed.”
Tolbert did talk with Heather Gilotti after the verdict.
“She was disappointed,” said Tolbert. “As was Mike senior because he lost a son in this. What’s really amazing about this family is they were consoling me. There’s no way of getting over this for them for a while. We didn’t help with this verdict. But they’re strong people.”
As the Gilotti family searches for justice, Johnson’s family looks forward to a reunion with their son.
“I told him everyday how much I love him,” said Johnson. “That’s all I can tell him now. I’m glad this is over…. I talked to him not long before the verdict came in and he’s been upbeat through the trial, and upbeat, staying positive. You know telling me, reminding me to stay positive and keep my faith.”
Johnson's sentencing is May 29 for the two felony charges of which he was convicted. He remains in jail until that sentencing. Tolbert told me sentencing guidelines allow for 30 months, but the judge may have more discretion.
Johnson was the second to be acquitted for murder of Gilotti. Charleston Wells was acquitted of that charge last year.
The teenager who testified has a deal with the state. Tolbert says he's going to plead to a lesser offense for his cooperation.
The fourth teen, De'ron Lucas, is still awaiting trial. When asked if he thinks the outcome will be different, Tolbert replied, “No. No I don’t.”
But the prosecutor remains confident the four charged were indeed involved in Gilotti’s death.
“Still convinced 100 percent,” said Tolbert. “It’s not a question on if I’m convinced, I know. I know things I can’t give to the jury. I know they’re all involved. They’re all guilty. I know.”