A hearing continues in Sullivan County, Tennessee, where a Bristol man, convicted of killing a police officer in 2004, is seeking a new trial.
Nikolaus Johnson was convicted of premeditated first-degree murder in the death of Bristol Tennessee Police Officer Mark Vance and was sentenced to death. Vance was killed on Nov. 27, 2004, while responding to a domestic call.
The man received a stay of execution in 2014. After previously failing to receive post-conviction relief from Sullivan County, the state’s appeals court in Knoxville partially remanded the case.
The case is being heard this week in the Blountville courtroom of Judge William Rogers, who replaced Judge Jerry Beck, the original jurist in the case who retired in 2017.
The hearing began Monday, but Johnson originally declined to appear, according to Sullivan County Circuit Court Clerk Bobby Russell. Rogers ordered Johnson, who is being held in the county jail this week, to be present during the hearing.
“The procedural history of this case is protracted and complex,” the state appeals court noted in an opinion in 2018.
Russell said several expert witnesses are appearing this week as Johnson’s attorneys seek a new trial.
Much of Johnson’s post-conviction appeals have centered on the use, viewing and sharing of discovery evidence. The appeals court previously removed the Sullivan County District Attorney General’s office from the case, which resulted in the Knox County District Attorney General’s Office representing the state during the appeals process.
Johnson has also said in his appeals that his previous attorneys failed to represent information about his mental health. During Monday’s hearing, his attorneys brought in a mental health expert to testify.
Russell said the post-conviction relief hearing may continue throughout the week, as the judge’s schedule is open. He added that the judge could make a decision on whether to grant a new trial or take the case under advisement.
Neither Knox County’s prosecutor nor Johnson’s attorneys responded to requests for comment Tuesday.