While he's charged with a capital crime, Anthony Jay Johnson will probably not face the death penalty.

District Attorney Josh Marquis said Thursday he hasn't decided whether his office will pursue the death penalty against Johnson, but said at this point it appears unlikely.

Marquis spoke following an arraignment for Johnson in Clatsop County Circuit Court in which Visiting Judge Wayne Harris ordered Johnson to remain behind bars without bail.

Johnson, 22, is charged with aggravated murder in connection with the stabbing death of Bruce Eric Hutchison, who was killed July 10 as he slept at a residence in Seaside.

Johnson was originally charged with murder, but last week a grand jury handed down an indictment on the more serious charge after reviewing the case.

Marquis said the new charge alleges that Johnson carried out the murder in the process of committing a burglary. He provided no other details about the case. The next hearing is scheduled for Aug. 21.

Though a conviction for aggravated murder can potentially carry the death penalty, Marquis said he probably will not seek a death sentence for Johnson. A decision on that question will be made shortly and will weigh such factors as the severity of the crime, Johnson's likelihood for future violence and the cost of trying a capital case.

The only other possible sentences for an aggravated murder conviction are life in prison without parole or life with the possibility of parole after 25 years.

Johnson allegedly stabbed Hutchison to death while Hutchison slept beside Johnson's mother, Rochelle Whitehead, at a house on 18th Avenue that he was remodeling. Johnson was arrested without incident a few hours later near a bus stop several blocks away.

Johnson is being represented by attorney Randall Vogt from Portland, with assistance from local attorney Kris Kaino. Marquis told Harris that Kaino had a potential conflict serving in the case because he represented Whitehead in a separate criminal case last year. Whitehead will be a key witness in the case, he said.

Harris said that issue could be handled at the Aug. 21 hearing.

Johnson appeared by video from the jail. When Harris said he was continuing his no-bail custody, Johnson replied "still?" and began complaining that he had been told he would be able to talk with his other attorney, before Harris and Kaino interrupted and told Johnson to wait until he could talk with Kaino in private at the jail.

Last week Johnson was charged with second-degree assault after allegedly attacking another inmate in the Clatsop County Jail. The inmate, Jeffrey Helligso, suffered facial injuries and was taken to a Portland hospital for treatment.


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