Woman sentenced to life in murder of Chicago officer

February 5, 2014 (CHICAGO)

Robin Johnson, 50, was sentenced to prison Wednesday for the first-degree murder of Officer Richard Francis, who was shot by Johnson after he responded to a call of a dispute on a CTA bus allegedly instigated by Johnson less than one block from the Belmont District Chicago Police Station at Belmont and Western avenues.

According to prosecutors, during the early morning hours of July 2, 2008, a witness was attempting to exit a CTA bus near 2401 W. Belmont when Johnson began harassing her.

Officer Francis, 60, who was on duty and passing by the location, was flagged down by the bus driver to intervene. Officer Francis approached Johnson and attempted to calm her down but she became combative, according to prosecutors. Johnson attacked the officer and they both fell to the ground, at which point Johnson grabbed the officer's weapon. As Officer Francis stood up and put his hands in the air Johnson allegedly shot him in the head at point-blank range.

Francis was a 27-year veteran of the Chicago Police Department.

Cook County Judge Thomas Gainer sentenced Johnson to the prison term of life for the murder of Officer Francis, and an additional 15 years for aggravated discharge of a firearm. Those sentences are to be served consecutively.

There was never any question that Robin Johnson fired the shots that killed Officer Francis, her attorneys admitted that in court. However, they said she never intended to kill him. Jurors disagreed.

Deborah Francis last saw her husband alive before he started his shift the day he died.

"It's really hard for us to speculate what the jury was thinking. They had a week and a half of evidence, and they did ultimately find guilty on the most serious count, the first-degree murder as to Officer Francis," said Charise Valente, Asst. Cook County State's Attorney.

Johnson sat expressionless during closing arguments in her trial. Prosecutors said Francis was unprepared for what he encountered. Johnson also exchanged gunfire with other officers who responded moments after Francis' shooting.

Jurors acquitted Johnson of attempted murder charges of those officers. Defense attorneys described Johnson as distressed and confused. She reportedly has a history of mental illness.

"That was not presented as a defense. There was basically a choice for the jury of guilty or not guilty," said Valente.

Among those listening to the closing arguments in the packed courtroom were Francis' family, several members of Johnson's family and dozens of police officers.

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