Texas Man Gets Death for Setting Clerk on Fire

By Amanda Guerra
|  Wednesday, Feb 12, 2014  |  Updated 12:24 PM CDT
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A Dallas jury sentenced Matthew Johnson to death by lethal injection for killing 76-year-old Nancy Harris. Johnson set her on fire after robbing the Garland convenience store where she worked, she died days later.

Amanda Guerra, NBC 5 News

A Dallas jury sentenced Matthew Johnson to death by lethal injection for killing 76-year-old Nancy Harris. Johnson set her on fire after robbing the Garland convenience store where she worked, she died days later.

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Matthew Johnson Facing Death Penalty

Prosecutors continue to seek the death penalty for a North Texas man convicted of capital murder for setting a clerk on fire as he robbed her Garland convenience store.

Punishment Coming for Man Who Set Garland Clerk on Fire

Prosecutors continue to seek the death penalty for a North Texas man convicted of capital murder for setting a clerk on fire as he robbed her Garland convenience store.
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A North Texas man has been sentenced to death for setting a convenience store clerk on fire during a robbery.

Matthew Johnson, 38, admitted to police that he was high on crack and drunk when he walked into 76-year-old Nancy Harris' store in Garland in May 2012. He was convicted last week of capital murder.

After about nine hours of deliberation over the course of two days, the jury of 11 women and one man unanimously sentenced Johnson to death. The jury last week returned a guilty verdict for the May 2012 death of Nancy Harris.

Harris' family had a chance to speak directly to Johnson after the verdict was read.

"To begin with, you are not sorry, and you are most definitely not forgiven," the victim's granddaughter, Shelby Harris, said through tears.

"I don't know how long I'm going to grieve my mother's loss and how long I'm going to pray for yours," said Brian Harris, her son. "But I do know one thing -- I'll be there the day the state of Texas straps you to a gurney and sends you to meet your maker."

"I hope the words you hear today are not wasted on you," said Chris Harris, another of Nancy Harris' sons. "I hope they come back years from now and torture you. I hope the screams of my mother tear your soul for eternity."

Johnson showed no emotion during the family statements.

One of Johnson's attorneys, Nancy Mulder, said her client expected the sentence.

"Like he said on the witness stand and he said in his interview with police, 'I deserve the death penalty. What I did was horrible,'" she told reporters.

Because it is a death penalty case, there is an automatic appeals process, which could take up to eight years, if not longer, she said.

In surveillance video that was shown in court, Johnson is seen with a water bottle full of lighter fluid. He douses Harris in the liquid, robs her and then sets her on fire.

Harris sustained burns over 40 percent of her body and died days later.

During the two-week trial, Johnson testified that he didn't mean to set Harris on fire and was remorseful about her death.

On Monday, Johnson took the stand on his own behalf, trying to save his life.

"I just want to live long enough to see my girls grow up," he said. "I put myself and family in a bad situation and the victim's families. I feel like a coward. I have my day of redemption, and I ask forgiveness from the victims families and for the court to have mercy."

Johnson is married and has three daughters, ages 15, 11 and 3.

NBC 5's Eric King contributed to this report.

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