A Fayette Circuit Court jury Thursday found Tyjuan Pearson guilty of second-degree manslaughter in the death of Dwayne "Man Man" Johnson Jr.
Pearson, 25, of Cincinnati, was charged with murder. He admitted shooting Johnson on June 13, 2009, on a Lexington street, but he said it was in self-defense. The jury deliberated about 51/2 hours before rendering its verdict.
Pearson could get 10 to 20 years in prison on the manslaughter charge. He was also found guilty of tampering with evidence, which could carry a sentence of five to 10 years. The jury was still considering its sentencing recommendation at press time.
In her closing argument, defense attorney Kate Dunn told the jury that if Pearson had not had a gun, he might be dead.
The shooting occurred about 3:30 a.m. outside the Pak & Save Market at Third and Race streets, across the street from the King Cobras club. There was a street party going on, and between 150 and 200 people were in the area. Some of the people were carrying guns in their clothing, including both Pearson and Johnson, and some were drinking. A craps game was in progress, attorneys told jurors in their opening statements on Monday.
Dunn said that just before the shooting, Johnson and his cousin, Karlan "A-1" Morton were circling Pearson. The circling began after Morton bumped Pearson and words were exchanged between the two, she said.
"There is no intent here to kill Man Man. There is intent to protect himself ...," she said.
"I submit to you, he had a right to protect himself, and that's what he was doing," Dunn said.
She said Anthony Taylor, a witness for the prosecution, who had told the jury he saw Pearson shoot Johnson in the back of the head, was high on cocaine when the shooting occurred and was not a credible witness. She said Taylor wanted to get a deal in a criminal case pending against him.
But prosecutor Traci Caneer told the jury Johnson's being shot in the back of the head made it difficult to call the shooting a case of self defense. She said Taylor had nothing to gain by telling police about the shooting and did not get any special deal for doing so.
She said no witnesses in the trial said they saw Johnson draw a gun. Caneer also said Pearson's story about the shooting has grown every time he's told it. He never mentioned he was afraid when he gave a statement to police, and he mentioned the word "fear" only once when he testified before a grand jury, she said.
Pearson was charged with tampering with physical evidence because, according to prosecutors and court testimony, he fled with the gun and later sold it in Cincinnati.
Johnson, 20, died at the University of Kentucky Chandler Hospital of a single gunshot wound to the head.