A Desert Hot Springs man who pleaded guilty to second- degree murder in the stabbing death of a romantic rival was sentenced today to 21 years to life in state prison.
In April, a jury acquitted Richard David Johnson of first-degree murder and deadlocked on a second-degree murder charge in the May 3, 2007, stabbing death of Richard Martinez.
Johnson, 49, entered his plea in July, on the second day of jury selection in his retrial on the lesser charge.
Riverside County Superior Court Judge Stephen Gallon denied probation for Johnson, who attacked the victim near an apartment complex at Buena Vista Avenue near Palm Drive in Desert Hot Springs.
Johnson stabbed Martinez in an alley when he saw the man with his girlfriend, who was pregnant with Johnson’s child, according to Deputy District Attorney Arthur Hester.
The prosecutor told jurors that Martinez was interested in dating Johnson’s on-again, off-again girlfriend, but she told him she just wanted to be friends.
The day of his death, the woman had asked to talk to Martinez about some problems, and they went for a walk in the alley near their apartments.
“All of a sudden, a man jumps out,” Hester said. “She sees Mr. Martinez clutch his chest and limp away.”
Deputy Public Defender Richard Verlato argued that prosecutors did not have any physical evidence linking Johnson to the killing, only statements made by his girlfriend.
The attorney maintained during the first trial that both his client and his girlfriend suffer from mental illness and were using crack cocaine on the day of Martinez’s death.