Ken Paxton

Monday, February 24, 2003

Michael Dewayne Johnson Scheduled To Be Executed

AUSTIN - Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott offers the following information on Michael Dewayne Johnson, who is scheduled to be executed after 6 p.m. on Wednesday, Feb. 26, 2003.

On May 8, 1996, Michael Dewayne Johnson was sentenced to death for the capital murder of Jeff Wetterman, which occurred in Lorena, Texas, on Sept. 10, 1995. A summary of the evidence presented at trial follows.


Around Sept. 9, 1995, David Vest went to Michael Johnson's house. While at the house, Vest saw a 9 mm gun sitting on a table. After Vest returned home, some friends came by in a stolen Cadillac. Vest drove the Cadillac for a while, letting off each passenger in turn until only he was left in the vehicle. Vest next began heading for his home when he pulled into a parking lot and noticed Johnson talking on a public telephone. Vest motioned for Johnson to get into the car, and the two drove around for a while. They subsequently went back to Johnson's house, and Johnson briefly went inside. Johnson returned to the stolen Cadillac with the 9 mm gun tucked in his waistband. After one more stop, Vest and Johnson headed to the coast.

Around Waco, Vest and Johnson were getting low on gas and decided to "make a gas run." "Making a gas run" was another way of saying they were going to steal some gas by stopping, jumping out and pumping the gas, and then taking off. After switching positions so that Johnson was driving, they approached two different stations, but decided the circumstances were unfavorable at both. Around 7:00 a.m. on September 10, they drove to a convenience store/gas station and Vest jumped out and started pumping gasoline. As he was doing so, Jeff Wetterman, who had been married just three weeks earlier, came outside and began talking to Vest. Johnson then got out of the car and walked to the rear of the vehicle. Vest asked Johnson whether he had the gun on him and Johnson lifted his shirt to reveal the weapon. As Vest returned the gas nozzle to the pump, he heard a shot and saw Wetterman fall. Vest and Johnson got back into the car and sped away. The two then proceeded to Corpus Christi. On their way home later the same day, Johnson sold the gun to a truck driver to get money for gas, drinks and cigarettes. The day following the murder, Vest saw an account of the murder on TV and told his mother what had happened.

Officers who arrived on the scene after the murder, talked to Wetterman's co-worker, Lois Bean, who testified that Wetterman had gone to the pumps to tend to a customer when Bean heard a noise that sounded like a shot. When she looked toward the pumps, she saw Wetterman sitting on the ground and saw a blond-haired man standing by the passenger door of what she later identified to be a Cadillac. Bean then saw the man get in the passenger side of the vehicle and the two drove off.

After the crime, Larry Reynolds and Johnson were at Vest's house when Johnson told Reynolds that Johnson and Vest pulled into a station to get gas when an attendant came out. Johnson said that he shot Wetterman in the face after he thought Vest had said "shoot."

Although Johnson argued at trial that he had an alibi and was at home at the time of the offense, he admitted to a psychologist who examined him after he was convicted that he was in fact at the gas station when the murder occurred.


On Nov. 29, 1995, Johnson was indicted in the 54th Judicial District Court of McLennan County, Texas, for the capital offense of murdering Jeff Wetterman while in the course of committing and attempting to commit robbery. After Johnson pleaded not guilty, a jury found him guilty of the capital offense on May 6, 1996. On May 8, 1996, after a separate punishment hearing, the court assessed Johnson's punishment at death.

The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals affirmed Johnson's conviction and sentence in an unpublished opinion on Sept. 24, 1997. The United States Supreme Court subsequently denied Johnson's petition for writ of certiorari on May 18, 1998.

Johnson then filed a state application for writ of habeas corpus in the trial court. Following a hearing conducted by the trial court, the Court of Criminal Appeals denied the application based on the trial court's findings on March 29, 2000.

On Sept. 13, 2000, Johnson filed a federal habeas petition in the United States District Court for the Western District of Texas, Waco Division. On Dec. 18, 2001, the court entered a judgment denying habeas relief. Johnson then sought permission to appeal from the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit. That court denied Johnson permission to appeal in a published opinion on Sept. 17, 2002. Johnson subsequently petitioned the United States Supreme Court for certiorari review. The petition is currently pending before the Court.


Johnson has no prior criminal convictions.


For additional information and statistics, please logon to the Texas Department of Criminal Justice website,