Johnson won’t be tried for murder
By Geoff Belcher
Feb 5, 2013, 19:09
A Hancock County Grand Jury has determined there is insufficient evidence to indict Herman Johnson, Jr., for the 2012 shooting death of his long-time friend Louis Matranga.
In its report issued Monday to the Hancock County Judicial District – Trial Division, the August 2012 term of the Hancock Grand Jury included Johnson, 59, on the "No True Bill" list, meaning he will not be indicted for murder.
"My client's position is that it's a bittersweet moment," Donald Rafferty, Johnson's attorney in the case, said Tuesday. "Obviously, he's ecstatic that the grand jury saw it his way and it was self-defense, but he's saddened by the fact that someone has died. ... He's saddened by the fact that someone he has known for a long time put him in a position where that had to happen."
Matranga, 50, was killed April 7, 2012, on a day that included the murder of four other people in two separate incidents and an apparent suicide by one of the alleged killers.
A local law enforcement official dubbed it "the craziest freakin' day in the history of Hancock County."
At around 10:40 p.m. on April 7 – while Waveland Police and Hancock Sheriff's officials were at the scene of the suicide – police were called to a nearby house at 9261 Kiln-Waveland Cutoff Road. Johnson's son had called police saying Matranga was causing a disturbance. It was later revealed that Johnson owns the property.
Before officers arrived at the scene, Johnson's son made a second call to police and said that his father had shot Matranga.
Johnson reportedly arrived at the home and shot Matranga twice in the chest with a small caliber semi-automatic pistol, officers said.
Police said Matranga, who did not live at the home, had been involved in an argument with two other men on the porch of the home.
After an extensive investigation, Hancock County sheriff's deputies arrested Johnson at his home on May 4, 2012, and charged him with murder.
He was initially held on a one million dollar bond. The bond was later reduced to $250,000 and he made bail.
Rafferty said Tuesday that the grand jury's decision means that the case is over, "other than they owe Herman an apology for arresting him in the first place."
"If new evidence is brought to light, the case could be re-presented to the grand jury," Assistant District Attorney Matthew Burrell said Tuesday.
However, he said, "We presented the facts as they existed.
“The sheriff's department did an outstanding job investigating this case. They left no stone unturned.
"The grand jury was presented the facts of the case. We don't partake in their voting process."
Johnson is still a member of the board of directors of the Hancock County Water and Sewer District, although he has been on a leave-of-absence.
Hancock County records show Johnson was first appointed to the board on Jan. 5, 1998 to fill the vacancy left by the resignation of Bill Minear.
HCWSD board members serve five-year terms, but can be re-appointed. Johnson has been re-appointed at least twice, the last time on May 5, 2008.
His current term will not expire until May 2013.