A Fresno man was sentenced Wednesday to 114 years to life in prison for killing another man outside a birthday party in southwest Fresno two years ago.
Michael Murray Johnson, 51, and his attorney, Kendall Simsarian, told Superior Court Judge Kimberly Gaab that Johnson was innocent of fatally shooting 47-year-old Leonard Greenberry.
Simsarian said a witness, Fred Gray, told police that the gunman was clean-shaven and had a ponytail.
But a photograph taken of Johnson a day before the killing showed him with short hair, a goatee and mustache, Simsarian said.
In addition, only Gray identified Johnson as the shooter, even though 50 to 60 people mingled outside the birthday party when police showed up, Simsarian said.
But Gaab said Gray identified the shooter when he picked Johnson out of a photo lineup. Gray also gave detectives a detailed account about how Johnson chased Greenberry before shooting him during the early hours of Aug. 24, 2014, outside the Legion Hall. Johnson fired six shots, killing Greenberry and wounding his friend Earl Perry, prosecutor Noelle Pebet said.
I find him a credible witness.
Judge Kimberly Gaab said of Fred Gray
“The physical evidence supports Gray’s testimony of the shooting,” Gaab said. “I find him a credible witness.”
Greenberry was the father of Deontay Greenberry, 22, a Washington Union High School football standout who played for the University of Houston, but so far has failed to make any National Football League roster. Another son is Domenek Leonard Greenberry, 19, who has been charged with two counts of murder in the October 2015 shooting deaths of brothers Willie and Denzel Ford outside a northwest Fresno apartment complex.
In August 2015, a jury convicted Johnson of first-degree murder in the slaying of Greenberry and the attempted murder of Perry.
Police say Greenberry and family and friends were celebrating the birthday of Greenberry’s wife, Natasha. During the trial, Gray testified he was at the party and that he knew both Greenberry and Johnson for years. He told the jury that toward the end of the party, Greenberry and Johnson exchanged words, but he didn’t know what they were arguing about.
He said Johnson left the party first.
When the party ended, Gray testified that he left the hall with Greenberry and two of his friends. Outside the hall, Gray testified he saw Johnson pull out a gun and saw Johnson chase Greenberry. Because Gray ran once he saw the gun, he didn’t see Greenberry get shot, but he heard gunfire.
“He had no reason or motive to lie,” Pebet said during Wednesday’s hearing while noting that Gray never had problems with Johnson in the past.
In August 2015, a jury convicted Michael Murray Johnson of first-degree murder in the slaying of Leonard Greenberry and the attempted murder of Earl Perry.
Johnson declined to comment during the hearing in which his family and friends, as well as Greenberry’s, packed the courtroom under the watchful eye of six bailiffs.
In announcing the sentence, Gaab said Johnson has a lengthy criminal history that began in 1981 and included stints in the California Youth Authority and state prison. Johnson’s criminal record includes attempted robbery, burglary, drug possession for sales, evading police, and parole and probation violations, Gaab said.
“There is no evidence that you have reformed,” Gaab told Johnson. “You have shown no respect for life or property and have shown no remorse.”
In addition, Gaab said Johnson’s “level of violence has escalated.”