Johnson is moved
to jail in Burley
"It appears to the court, that because
the defendant is a 16-year-old, charged with two counts of first degree murder
with a potential of being sentenced to the Idaho Department of Corrections for
life, that she is entitled to two attorneys to assist in her defense."
— JAMES MAY, 5th District Judge
By GREG STAHL
Express Staff Writer
The 16-year-old defendant in a Blaine
County murder trail has been moved to the Mini-Cassia Criminal Justice Center in
Sarah M. Johnson, who is accused of the
Sept. 2 killings her parents, Alan and Diane Johnson, was taken to the
Mini-Cassia facility on Tuesday, Nov. 25, following a court appearance in 5th
District Court in Hailey, said Blaine County Sheriff’s Office Capt. Ed Fuller.
Fuller declined to explain why Johnson was
moved, but said she would be transported to Blaine County for court appearances.
Blaine County Sheriff Walt Femling was not available this week to answer
questions regarding the move.
The move surprised Johnson’s attorney,
Public Defender Bob Pangburn, who said Johnson is being held in difficult
"She’s basically in solitary confinement,"
Pangburn said. "She’s in a six-person cell by herself. The door to the cell is
covered with cardboard so that she can’t see out and no one else can see in."
That was not the case in Blaine County,
where she shared a cell with another woman, Pangburn said.
Pangburn said he has asked why she was
moved, but was told only that it was a decision made by "the brass."
"Nobody told me she was being moved," he
said. "I didn’t know she was moved until a friend of hers told me."
Pangburn said he had left Johnson at
approximately 2 p.m. and that she told him she was moved at 2:03 p.m.
"It looks like they’re playing some
games," he said. "She’s 100 miles away from Hailey now. I think courtesy at
least would dictate that they would let me know that. It’s inconvenient. It does
affect our ability to have access to our client, so she can actively participate
in her defense. I think it’s an unnecessary expense."
Earlier on Tuesday, Nov. 25, Judge James
May appointed a second attorney to assist with Johnson’s defense. Local attorney
Lee Ritzau, who has a public defender contract with Blaine County, got the nod
to join Pangburn on the case.
But on Tuesday, Dec. 2, Pangburn said
Ritzau had filed a motion to be disqualified because of a conflict of interest
with the case. If the motion stands, Ritzau would be the third public defender
who could not help represent Johnson because of a conflict.
Pangburn said the issue would be heard in
court on Monday, Dec. 8.
Nonetheless, in his decision to appoint
Ritzau, May made clear that a second attorney is warranted in the case.
"It appears to the court, that because the
defendant is a 16-year-old, charged with two counts of first degree murder with
a potential of being sentenced to the Idaho Department of Corrections for life,
that she is entitled to two attorneys to assist in her defense," he wrote in his