ShareThis Page
News

Deer poacher convicted of killing game warden

| Tuesday, Oct. 2, 2012, 9:10 p.m.

GETTYSBURG — Jurors who convicted a deer poacher of first-degree murder in the shooting death of a central Pennsylvania game warden must decide whether to sentence him to execution or life in prison without possibility of parole.

The Adams County panel deliberated for less than an hour on Tuesday before convicting 29-year-old Christopher Johnson of Fairfield in the November 2010 death of wildlife conservation officer David Grove.

Investigators said Johnson and a friend had poached a deer at night when Grove pulled them over on a rural road near Gettysburg. The passenger said a shootout began when Johnson, a convicted felon, vowed never to go back to prison. Jurors were told the two men fired 25 shots in the exchange that left Grove dead and Johnson injured.

Defense attorneys had sought a lesser conviction, arguing that Johnson was too drunk to form the intent to kill. A doctor who treated Johnson's wounds said the defendant told him he drank 12 beers the day of the shooting.

District Attorney Shawn Wagner told jurors as the penalty phase began on Tuesday afternoon that he will outline four aggravating circumstances in the case that support imposing the death penalty, including that the murder occurred during commission of a felony, that the victim was a law enforcement officer killed during performance of his duties, that he was a possible witness against the defendant and that Johnson has a history of felony convictions involving threat or use of force.

“Does any evidence outweigh the life of Officer Grove?” Wagner asked.

Defense attorneys, who are calling the possible sentences “the two worst punishments in a civilized country,” indicated that they will try to show that Johnson has empathy and there is still much of value in his life.

Jurors, who will return Wednesday to hear more testimony, were brought in from neighboring Lancaster County because of the publicity surrounding the case.

Grove was the first Pennsylvania game warden killed in the line of duty in 95 years, and more than 1,000 attended his funeral.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.

click me