MERCED, Calif. (KGPE/KSEE) – The mother of murdered eight-year-old Sophia Mason and her boyfriend were in Merced County Superior Court Wednesday morning for their arraignment, facing charges of murder and child abuse against Sophia.
Johnson pleaded not guilty through her attorney. Jackson’s arraignment was delayed again after he failed to appear in court with an attorney for the second time. The Merced County District Attorney’s office believes Dhante Jackson will be arraigned next week. The DA’s office believes Jackson will also enter a not guilty plea.
“Enter a plea to not guilty?” asked Judge Steven Solcum. “Yes,” responded Johnson’s defense attorney behind courtroom doors Wednesday morning.
Johnson was not present in the courtroom during the plea delivery but was in the building. Police reports claim Johnson was present while Sophia was allegedly being abused and detailed what happened to investigators leading up to her daughter’s death. She has been awaiting arraignment for six months.
Johnson faces the same charges as Dhante Jackson, one count each of murder and child abuse. Dhante Jackson was in the same courtroom in Merced County Superior Court in a yellow jumpsuit, and chains, but only faced the judge for a few minutes.
“There is no remote access for attorneys in this courtroom, so your attorney has to come to court,” said Judge Solcum.
“Oh okay,” responded Jackson.
Judge Slocum allowed Jackson one more week to return to court with an attorney in-person, after failing to do so for the second time.
On Monday, Jackson also failed to appear in court with an attorney.
“It’s probably more likely that he’ll enter a not guilty plea and fight the case,” said Merced Deputy District Attorney Katie Gates.
Although the DA’s office is expecting Jackson to enter the same plea as Johnson, it could take some time before both of them could be convicted.
“We’re focused on the murder, obviously the child abuse is related to that, and we might have more information after the preliminary hearing after we present evidence in court,” said Gates.
Jackson’s arraignment is now set for September 21, in courtroom 6 at 8:30 a.m.