A key witness in the case against Travers and Tremayne Johnson, who are accused of burning a pit bull puppy named Phoenix, abruptly refused to testify Tuesday, causing a judge to sentence her to six months in jail.
Tiera Goodman, 25, of the 800 block of Braddish Ave. witnessed Phoenix as she was fatally burned in 2009 and testified during the first trial that she saw the 20-year-old Johnson twins running from the scene. The case is being retried after the previous trial ended in a hung jury.
But Goodman, who initially identified the Johnsons to receive a $1,000 reward, changed her attitude from helpful to the prosecution to obstinate Tuesday.
On the witness stand, she slumped in her chair and mumbled into the microphone. When Baltimore Circuit Judge Emanuel Brown told her to "sit up straight and use better posture," Goodman seemed agitated and grew combative.
"Emanuel Brown is your name?" she asked. "I'm not testifying, sir."
Prosecutor Janet Hankin appeared surprised and asked Goodman to tell the jury what she saw, reminding her that she had already testified during the first trial.
"You understand that we need you to testify," Hankin said. "You would rather have to serve additional time than testify?"
Goodman once again leaned back in her chair. "Yep," she replied.
Brown then held her in criminal contempt and sentenced her to five months and 29 days in jail. She is also incarcerated on unrelated charges. Prosecutors will show the jury video of Goodman's testimony from the first trial, he said.
Goodman wasn't the only unenthusiastic prosecution witness Tuesday. Michael Taylor, 22, a close friend of the Johnsons who had been similarly reluctant to testify, spent much of the afternoon yawning at prosecutors' questions, mumbling barely audible responses and smirking with the defendants. Prosecutors had to remind him several times of the basic facts of the case and his earlier statements to police, because he said he had forgotten them.
At one point, when Taylor rested his head against part of the witness stand and closed his eyes, Hankin asked: "Are we keeping you up, Mr. Taylor?"
Taylor had been promised immunity for his testimony during the first trial. He was initially questioned about the dog-burning incident after police raided his home June 6, 2009, found a gun and marijuana, and arrested him and his girlfriend.
As the day ended, the judge asked for an attorney to be called in to represent Taylor.
The Johnson twins are accused of dousing a young female pit bill with an unknown accelerant and setting her on fire May 27, 2009, in the Sandtown-Winchester neighborhood of West Baltimore. Rescue workers named the dog Phoenix. With severe burns over much of her body as well as puncture wounds, the dog was euthanized days later.
The brothers were originally tried in January and February of 2011. The case drew national attention from anti-animal-abuse advocates and ended in a mistrial when one juror would not agree to convict the brothers.
Tuesday marked the third day of testimony in the second trial. The only other witness during the day was a city animal control officer, La-Kia Davis, who testified that the case was one of the worst she'd ever seen.
"I could see the animal did suffer from burns all over its body," she said of her impressions upon first seeing the dog.
Despite the burns, Davis said, Phoenix still appeared trusting of humans and did not attempt to bite the officer when she picked her up. "She was waging her tail, looking at me and whimpering," Davis said. "She needed medical attention right away."
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