Before there was Columbine, there was Jonesboro. On March 24, 1998, 13-year-old Mitchell Johnson and 11-year-old Andrew Golden shot and killed four students and a teacher at Westside Middle School in Jonesboro, Arkansas. Eleven other people had also been injured. At the time of the shooting there was no law in the state of Arkansas that could keep the killers in prison beyond their 21st birthday. Since then, that loophole has been closed. Johnson was released in 2005, while Golden was released in 2007. While Golden, now going by the name of Drew Grant, has largely remained out of the public eye, Johnson was arrested in 2007 on drugs and weapons charges and in 2008 on theft charges. He was sentenced to 22 years but was paroled in 2015.
Yesterday, a Craighead County judge ruled the two killers owed the families of their victims a wrongful death settlement of $150 million. This lawsuit has been going on for almost two decades. The families realize they will never receive the settlement, but mostly filed the suit to have depositions from both shooters released to the public in order to try to prevent future school shootings. Neither killer was present at the ruling. Johnson’s depositions can be found here, while Golden’s can be found here. Due to time constraints, I haven’t been able to go through all of the depositions, however, I will be making a future post about them.
Another reason the families filed the lawsuit was to prevent Johnson and Golden, the only mass school shooters who have been released from jail, from making money from their story. While Arkansas does have a Son of Sam law in place, another infamous son of Arkansas, convicted child killer Damien Echols, has shown there are ways around that. Thanks to this lawsuit neither Johnson nor Golden will be able to make a dime from their mass murders and loophole release.