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Jennifer Papain Vanishes After Craigslist Meeting, Chad Johnson on Trial for Her Murder


Reasonable Doubt?

William Ferris, Johnson’s attorney, of counsel to Islandia-based Bracken Margolin Besunder LLP, argues that police used scare tactics to coerce Johnson’s confession.

During cross-examination of Soto and McQuaid, Ferris contended that although his client was cooperative with police and had willingly met with them on multiple occasions, they waited for him to leave his house, knowing that Johnson had 13 suspensions on his license, then arrested him for driving with a suspended license. Ferris told the jury his client was brought to police headquarters in Yaphank, arguing that it is not police procedure to bring traffic violators to police headquarters for processing, but to a local precinct. He also said his client was essentially brought into a “police fortress” where he was isolated and “no longer in public view,” surrounded by law enforcement for those six hours before Johnson gave his confession.


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Ferris also made sure jurors knew that Dartinian, Johnson’s brother, was arrested on an outstanding warrant for a traffic violation and also brought to police headquarters, again not not common practice for that offense, to put pressure on Johnson to confess to the murder during this time, he argued.

Johnson had told police before that he was very close to Dartinian and it was when police told him that his brother was also in custody that Johnson agreed to give the confession, Ferris said.

Soto testified that before the confession, Johnson told him, “My brother had nothing to do with this…Detective I’m serious, I’ll tell you the truth.”

Johnson then asked to see his brother and have a cigarette, according to Soto. He added that after meeting with his brother, Johnson was upset and told Dartinian “You have nothing to worry about, it’s all on me, I love you.” And then again told detectives, “You have to believe me, my brother had nothing to do with this.”

It was at this time that Johnson gave details of the alleged events to police. Soto said it was 12:05 a.m. when the written statement was completed. At that point, Ferris contended, his client had been in police custody for 10 hours.

“Did you give Chad Johnson the opportunity to call his family?” he asked McQuaid. The detective answered “No” and said Johnson had never asked to speak to anyone, including a lawyer, the entire time he was in police custody.

Ferris also pointed to inconsistencies in Johnson’s confession. Johnson first told police he dumped Papain’s clothes at Gilgo the day after the murder, but later said he dumped them several days after the murder.

The defense attorney additionally argued that there were details absent in the confession that would have been there had Johnson committed the murder. There is nothing in the statement “That said she resisted, scratched or pushed him away” and “Nothing about screaming or noises she made,” Ferris contended.

And he said the cadaver dog gave a strong indication that Papain’s body was in the trunk, but Johnson said in the written statement he had Papain’s body on the floor of the backseat.

Ferris also attacked the transmission of the confession itself, arguing it was handwritten by Det. Soto, not Johnson.

Soto countered that was police protocol and Johnson had dictated it verbally to him.

Ferris also found fault in that the police immediately went after the top charge of murder, and nothing else.

“You didn’t charge Chad Johnson with anything related to disposal of the body, hindering prosecution or attempted theft?” Ferris asked Soto.

Yet this wasn’t the first time—or even second time—Johnson had allegedly been violent with women, prosecutors said.

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