A Walworth County jury convicted Alan M. Johnson of first-degree reckless homicide Tuesday in the 2016 shooting death of his brother-in-law.
The jury of eight women and four men deliberated for nearly nine hours between Monday and Tuesday before reaching a verdict just before 2 p.m. Tuesday.
Johnson, 32, has admitted killing his brother-in-law Ken Myszkewicz, 43, on Oct. 25, 2016, in Myszkewicz’s Whitewater home.
The trial was never a whodunit case. Rather, attorneys argued over Johnson’s intent.
The jury did not return guilty verdicts on the original charge, first-degree intentional homicide, or its second-degree version. Convictions on those two charges required the jury to believe Johnson intended to kill Myszkewicz.
By convicting Johnson of first-degree reckless homicide, the jury decided he did not intend to kill Myszkewicz but caused his death by acting recklessly with utter disregard for human life. The jury also determined he did so while armed with a dangerous weapon.
It is unclear if Johnson will appeal. His attorney, Stephen Hurley, said he would not speak to reporters.
The jury found Johnson not guilty of armed burglary, a charge that implied Johnson intended to kill Myszkewicz upon entering his home shortly before midnight. The shooting occurred shortly after 2 a.m.
Johnson went to Myszkewicz’s home with his father’s .40-caliber Smith & Wesson pistol; an immense fear of his brother-in-law, who sexually and physically assaulted him as a child; and a goal to find child pornography on Myszkewicz’s computer, his attorneys have said.
When Myszkewicz opened the door and saw Johnson—who said he found more than 5,000 pictures of neighborhood girls on the night of the shooting—Myszkewicz saw police, prosecutors and prison in his future, Johnson’s lawyers argued.
Then Myszkewicz attacked, they said.
Assistant District Attorney Diane Donohoo disputed Johnson’s assertion that Myszkewicz attacked him, noting that some of the five bullets hit Myszkewicz in the back.
She also said Myszkewicz had a right to defend his home from a man who broke in during the night with a loaded gun.
Donohoo said Johnson “ambushed” Myszkewicz in his home. She said Johnson does not remember details from the altercation, and the only other witness—Myszkewicz—is dead, so no one knows what happened when the two men confronted each other.
During her closing arguments Monday, Donohoo also criticized Johnson for changing his story the day of the shooting. Law enforcement had no idea who killed Myszkewicz or where the murder weapon was, she said.
Myszkewicz’s wife of more than 20 years and their son were kept apart and interviewed by police during a traumatic time as police investigated the death, Donohoo said.
While speaking to police for the third time, Johnson confessed to the killing, saying, “Arrest me. I did it.”
During his opening statements, Hurley said that after the shooting, Johnson sharpened a knife and walked into the cornfield behind the Lima Center house he shared with his parents, planning to kill himself. When he couldn’t do it, he walked back, saw his father and confessed.
Johnson’s father, Eric Johnson, is a former Racine County sheriff. He called police and told them to return to their house.
Myszkewicz’s history of sexual and physical assaults against Alan and at least one other family member became public in January when Alan’s former attorney, Scott McCarthy, filed a motion to include that evidence in his case.
Alan, fearing the same thing could happen to his younger relatives, told police in 2015 that he had found child porn on Myszkewicz’s computer five or six years earlier, according to court documents.
A Walworth County sheriff’s detective told Alan the tip was too stale, but if he got more recent information, police could investigate.
After Eric confronted Myszkewicz about the porn, Alan said Myszkewicz kept postponing treatment, which compelled Alan to find more evidence, Hurley argued.
That led Alan to Myszkewicz’s Peck Street home that night, he said.
When the verdict came in, a small group of law enforcement and courthouse staffers peeked into the courtroom to listen along with family and supporters for both sides.
Johnson, clean shaven for the trial, walked in and smiled at his family.
After the verdict was announced, members of Johnson’s family told him, “We love you.”
Johnson will be sentenced at 9 a.m. Jan. 12. He faces up to 65 years in prison.