THEY PROTEST SENTENCE IN TRAFFIC DEATH OUTSIDE GRACELAND GATES
Printed Tuesday 9th May 1978
Mrs. Aloha Johnson, right and daughter-in-law, Mrs Sandra Johnson
MEMPHIS 'JUSTICE' PROTESTED AT GRACELAND
By ANNE B. McDONALD
Press-Scimitar Staff Writer
"There is no justice in Memphis," said Mrs. Aloha Johnson, looking sad and some-what exhausted.
She had been standing all afternoon in 'front of Graceland mansion, holding a placard protesting the recent sentence given to the driver whose car killed her 19-year-old daughter and another young woman during the vigil by fans in front of the Elvis Presley home last August.
Mrs. Johnson feels there should have been a stiffer penalty for the driver, who got 10 years' imprisonment.
Frustration and a feeling of helplessness have gripped Mrs. Johnson ever since her daughter, Juanita Joanne Johnson, was struck and killed in front of the singer's home by an automobile driven by Treatise Wheeler III.
Wheeler was charged with the early morning traffic deaths of Miss Johnson, 19, and Alice Hovatar, 19, of Monroe, La., and the critical injuring of a third young woman, Tammy Baiter, 17, of St. Clair, Mo., as all three girls stood outside Presley's Whitehaven home on the day of the entertainer's funeral.
Wheeler last week pleaded guilty to two counts of second degree murder and re¬ceived a 10-year sentences
"We believe the sentence was unfair, “Mrs. Johnson said.
"The Memphis courts obviously believe that my daughter's life was of no more value than a sentence that boy probably only will serve five years of.
That's two and a half years for each death.
Is that justice?"
Mrs. Johnson's poster listed several offenses she said Wheeler was charged with, including driving while intoxicated, hit and run, public drunkenness and injuring Miss Baiter.
Mrs. Johnson scored a large zero for time of punishment after each listing on the card.
Her daughter-in-law, Mrs. Sandra John¬son, stood beside her, holding a large portrait of Joanne, as the family called her.
The picture, donated by the Johnson family, usually hangs in a restaurant across the street from Graceland.
The restaurant loaned the Johnsons the picture for the afternoon.
"When (the family), heard about the Wheeler boy's sentencing, we all burst into tears. It was just like hearing about Joanne's death all over again," Mrs. John¬son said.
"I don't see why this case had to have the punishment all wrapped up before the case even came to trial," she said.
"This type of thing needs to be stopped."
Wheeler received the minimum sentence on a guilty plea to second degree murder.
The maximum is life in prison.
During last week's plea bargaining, Attorney General Hugh Stanton Jr. said de¬fendants in drunken driving accidents resulting in deaths usually are offered a one-year prison sentence on an involuntary manslaughter charge.
Stanton said he considered the Wheeler case to be "extremely aggravated," and the state recommended a 10-year sentence.