DUNCAN - Johnny Dale Black - a man once convicted of manslaughter - was convicted Tuesday by a Stephens County jury of first-degree murder in the stabbing death of Bill Pogue.
Black also was found guilty of assault and battery with a deadly weapon in the stabbing of Richard Lewis, Pogue's son-in-law.
Black, 33, is locked in a legal battle for his life.
At 9 a.m. today, District Attorney Gene Christian will open the state's case for the death penalty.
"This verdict has relieved the family quite a bit," said Art Lewis, Richard Lewis' father. "Whether or not he (Black) is put to death... well, whatever happens, happens. I'm not a vindictive man. I'm a Christian man.
"Now that doesn't mean I'm against the death penalty. In this particular case, I think the death penalty is justified."
A jury of six men and six women needed less than an hour and half to conclude Black maliciously and willingly used deadly force against Pogue during a chance roadside encounter south of Ringling on Jan. 4, 1998.
By his own admission, Black, his brothers Jimmy Lee Roy Black, 30 and Jesse J. Black, 21; Cal Eugene Shankles, 20; and Robert William Seals, 26; forced Pogue's Blazer off State Highway 89 that night and engaged in a fistfight. The brawl quickly turned deadly, when Black said he opened his pocketknife in defense of his brothers.
Ironically, it may have been Black's own words that "he knew how to kill somebody with a knife" that convinced the jury the attack was not a defensive act.
Pogue, 54, suffered 10 stab wounds, broken ribs and two punctured lungs. The Ringling horse trainer was pronounced dead later that night at the Healdton Hospital with his son, Charles, and brother, Don, among those at his side.
"I won't relish watching him (Johnny Black) die," said an emotionally drained Don Pogue outside the courtroom. "I stood in that emergency room and watched Bill die. That was terrible, seeing him begging for air."
When asked if he would support the death penalty in this case, Don Pogue slowly nodded his head and solemnly replied, "Yeah, I do."
Inside the courtroom, Pogue's family embraced after the verdict. Some quietly wept. Tears flowed among Pogue's family members earlier in the day when Assistant District Attorney Bret Burns spoke to the jurors about justice.
Burns recounted the arrival of Lewis and Pogue at the Healdton Hospital.
"What's the first thing Bill Pogue says?" Burns asked. "He says, 'Take care of Rick.'
"This is Johnny Black's day in court. It's also Rick's and Charlie's and Bill's. This is their one and only day."
Lewis, who survived the attack with 13 stab wounds, embraced friends and family members after the verdict. He appeared overwhelmed by the trial.
"It has been a terrible ordeal for him," Art Lewis said of his son. "Especially when this first happened. He couldn't even sleep. He'd wake up in a cold sweat."
When considering Black's sentence, jurors are expected to be introduced to Black's troubled past.
Christian and Burns plan to introduce Black's 1984 manslaughter conviction for which he served eight years in prison. Jurors also are likely to hear about Black's escape from the Jefferson County jail in June and the threatening letter he left Sheriff Don Allen. In the letter, Black hinted he would see Allen again, "sometime late at night."
In perhaps a symbolic gesture, Allen and his deputies sat immediately behind Black when the verdict was announced. Black glared at the deputies, and then flung his arm angrily as he was escorted back to his cell. Behind Allen and his deputies sat Black's weeping relatives.
"We're pleased the jury returned a guilty verdict so quickly," Christian said.
"Now what happens next, this is the hard part."Archive ID: 750278