In tense exchange, accused shooter questions sole eyewitness in Juneau homicide trial

When Tiffany Johnson retook the witness stand Tuesday morning to face cross examination by Christopher Strawn, the tension was so thick that an ordinary knife wouldn’t do. You’d need a two-man crosscut logging saw.

Strawn is on trial again for the death two years ago of Brandon Cook in Johnson’s new trailer at the Kodzoff Acres Trailer Park. He’s accused of firing a shotgun at Cook, from close range and from behind as Johnson witnessed the event.

The last jury trial ended in a mistrial eight months ago, thanks in part to his public defender. For some reason, the day laborer Strawn has ditched his professional criminal defense attorney and is trying to defend himself. He has no legal experience. Strawn can consult a professional attorney, Nicholas Polasky, who is serving as stand-by counsel during the trial.

That’s the background for the awkward and tense scene that played out in Juneau Superior Court on Tuesday. It was pin-drop quiet as the accused shooter of Brandon Cook stood up and asked questions of the only person who witnessed his alleged crime. She was sitting on the witness stand about 20 feet away.

“Hi, Mrs. Johnson,” said Strawn, as he started his cross-examination. “Is it true you used to be called Mrs. Albertson?”

“Yes,” Johnson answered.

The tension dissipated as Strawn continued with his confusing or poorly-phrased questions. Sometimes it seemed he was testifying instead of asking questions. Other times he’d miss opportunities for follow-up questions, start to veer off on irrelevant tangents, or skirt close to inadmissible testimony.

Strawn and Assistant District Attorney Amy Paige, the prosecutor in the case, were frequently called up for bench conferences or impromptu meetings with Superior Court Judge…

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