Durham County

Johnson gets life in prison for July 4, 2015 Joy Mart slaying

Dmarlo Johnson
Dmarlo Johnson Durham Police Department

A Durham jury Friday found Dmarlo Johnson guilty of first degree murder, assault with a deadly weapon on a law enforcement officer and robbery with a dangerous weapon in the slaying of Amer Mahmood.

The verdict capped a three-week trial

Mahmood, 48, was working as a store clerk on July 4, 2015 at Joy Mart convenience store at 2109 North Roxboro Street, when Johnson entered the store in a robbery attempt.

Johnson was sentenced to life without parole on the first-degree murder conviction and received an additional sentence of 60 to 84 months in prison to begin at the expiration of that life sentence for the robbery with firearm conviction.

As part of his closing argument Assistant District Attorney Jim Dornfried played a video taken on a security camera inside the Joy Mart. The tape showed Johnson walk into the store covering his face with his shirt and brandishing a gun.

Johnson yelled at customers to leave store, “Get Out! Get the f--- out!” he yelled. One older man did not initially move. Johnson pointed his pistol at the man’s face until he obeyed the order. Once the customers had exited, Johnson moved around the left side of the store counter and shot Mahmood several times.

Before being shot, Mahmood had pushed a panic button that was hidden underneath the counter.

Three Durham police officers responded to the Joy Food Mart at 12:47 a.m., heard shots inside the store and witnessed Johnson exiting the store with the handgun.

Officers told Johnson to drop the gun. He did not, instead pointing it at the officers. The officers shot Johnson and found Mahmood dead inside the Joy Mart.

Prosecutor Dornfried informed the jury that Johnson had a poor history with the Roxboro Street Joy Mart staff and that he’d been instructed to leave the premises after staff saw him dealing marijuana in the parking lot in the weeks before the murder.

As part of his closing argument, Dornfried told jurors that the fatal turn in the robbery attempt which led to the killing hinged upon a single word.

After Johnson had yelled for Joy Mart’s customers to leave, he pointed his gun at Mahmood demanding money and said, “I ain’t playing, I ain’t playing ... You think I’m playing? I will kill. I will kill.”

Jurors watched and listened as Dornfried played the security tape over and over and at a high volume. The men’s words were hard to decipher. Dornfried told the jurors to pay attention to the moment — he argued— that signaled Mahmood’s recognition of his recognizing Johnson.

“I’ll kill,” Johnson said on the video. “I’ll kill.”

Mahmood, apparently panicked, replied, “... Marlo ...”

Johnson could then be seen in the security tape making his way, with gun raised, around the counter toward the clerk.

Dornfried argued that because Mahmood had given verbal proof of recognizing Johnson, Johnson shot and killed him.

The trial took place in Durham County Superior Court.

Colin Warren-Hicks: 919-419-6636, @CWarrenHicks