BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KERO) — A man accused of a 2017 murder has been acquitted following a jury trial. Amid his acquittal, the District Attorney's Office is warning against internet-based apps to arrange sales and meetings with complete strangers for sales of items.
A Kern County jury found Michael Johnson not guilty of both first-degree murder and robbery charges after deliberating on the evidence presented during the trial.
In 2018, Johnson was arrested for the killing of 28-year-old Jesus Torres. Torres was found dead inside his car near Stiern Park in South Bakersfield back on August 30, 2017. Authorities say Torres died from blunt force trauma.
The DA's Office said evidence presented at the trial indicated that both Torres and Johnson were involved in the buying, refurbishing, and selling of cellular phones.
Analysis of cell phone records of Torres’ personal phone revealed that Torres met up with “Foolie” by using the “OfferUp” app with the intent to purchase an iPhone for $120.00. “Foolie” was believed to be Michael Johnson based on cell phone records, OfferUp records, IP address records, and email records of Johnson.
The DA's Office argued that records indicated an argument between the two men, and that the location Torres provided to Johnson was ultimately the same location his body was discovered. However, according to the DA's Office, the jury determined that the evidence did not reach the level required for a criminal conviction.
In response to the case, District Attorney Cynthia Zimmer said the public should be wary of using apps to arrange sale meet-ups.
"When meetings do occur for sales of items, it is best to arrange a meeting where cameras and law enforcement are present and visible, including specifically the front of police departments," she said in a release. "Not only does meeting near police departments reduce the risk of violence and robbery due to law enforcement’s immediate, visible presence, but it also increases the likelihood that any criminal acts that do occur can be immediately responded to and evidence of any crime be readily available and secured.”