GA v. Quaneesha Johnson: Self-Defense or Murder Trial

Posted at 9:00 AM, August 28, 2023 and last updated 7:16 AM, August 29, 2023


LITHONIA, Ga. (Court TV) — A Georgia woman who claimed she was acting in self-defense when she killed her live-in boyfriend was sentenced three days after a jury returned a mixed verdict.

While a jury acquitted Quaneesha Johnson on charges of malice murder, the panel found her guilty of other charges, including voluntary manslaughter, aggravated assault and cruelty to children for a shooting that killed Demonte Smith on Nov. 27, 2022.

Quaneesha Johnson appears in court

Quaneesha Johnson appears in court Tuesday, Aug. 22, 2023. (Court TV)

Johnson was sentenced to 20 years on the charge of voluntary manslaughter, with 10 years of confinement and 10 years of probation. The years Johnson was sentenced to serve under confinement were split, with five to be served in prison and five to be served under house arrest.

Johnson will remain out of prison while she appeals her case.

Police were outside the home when the deadly shot was fired, and Smith’s last words, “She shot me. She hit me in the head. She shot me,” were captured by officers’ body-cameras.

Johnson initially called the police to the home she shared with Smith late on Nov. 26, saying he was threatening her. In a motion filed to dismiss the charges, attorneys reference bodycam video in which “the deceased tells police that (the victim) should be scared because she knows that she was wrong for staying out late.”

While police acknowledged that Johnson was the initial caller to 911, officers at the scene said she “repeatedly antagonized” Smith. After Smith went inside the home, Johnson allegedly asked officers what would happen if she shot him in self-defense.

While police remained outside of the home, Johnson went into her vehicle and removed a handgun and a tire iron before returning to the home. Inside, there was a gunshot before Smith came back out of the house and approached police. Video shows the victim tell officers, “She hit me with the metal thing first bro, and then she shot me. Hurry up before I die.”

A key witness for the prosecution was Johnson’s 8-year-old daughter, who allegedly saw the shooting. Prosecutors said the child and her then-2-month-old sister were the only other people inside the house during the shooting. Recordings of 911 calls made by the child and forensic interviews were played for the jury as well.


DAY 5 – 8/25/23 – SENTENCING

DAY 4 – 8/25/23

  • Jurors arrived to begin deliberations at 8:12a.m.
  • After the jurors left to begin deliberations, Michael Sterling alerted the court to potential witness tampering, saying that a witness that he had been trying to subpoena posted a video on Instagram saying that she had been in touch with the victim’s family and working to avoid coming to testify.
  • Jurors asked to re-watch the bodycamera interviews with Johnson and Smith’s dying declaration.
  • After nearly 4 hours of deliberations, the jury returned a mixed verdict, finding Johnson guilty of voluntary manslaughter and other charges, but not guilty of murder.

DAY 3 – 8/24/23

DAY 2 – 8/23/23

  • The jury watched Ring camera video of Demonte Smith walking from the house to the street
  • The defendant’s daughter testified she saw Smith pick up a pole and hit her mother, then Johnson hit Smith a vacuum cleaner. The child did not see Johnson pull out a gun but heard the gunshot
  • Medical examiner Dr. Bruce Wainer testified Smith died from a gunshot wound, the manner of death was ruled homicide
  • Defendant Quaneesha Johnson took the stand
    • WATCH: Quaneesha Johnson Reenacts Deadly Confrontation in Court
    • Testified Smith was staying with her at her house after he was released from jail and had nowhere else to go
    • She was frightened by Smith’s text message threatening her because he had threatened and beat her two weeks earlier
    • Testified she did everything she could to try and get the police to protect her from Smith
    • Said she knew Smith was going to beat her because he had done it before and was scared because the cops had left her
    • Testified she didn’t intend for the shooting to happen
    • On cross-examination, Johnson said she didn’t tell officers about Smith’s criminal past or show them the text messages because they didn’t ask
      • Said a friend told her about the Stand Your Ground law in Georgia and no need to retreat
  • WATCH: Self-Defense or Murder Trial: Day 2

DAY 1 – 8/22/23