Elizabeth men convicted of 2011 murder

A Union County jury has convicted a pair of Elizabeth men for their roles in a 2011 murder, acting Union County Prosecutor Grace H. Park announced Thursday.

Guilty verdicts on charges of first-degree murder and two weapons offenses were returned against 35-year-old Jamil Hearns and 37-year-old Joey Fowler, who planned and carried out the shooting death of 32-year-old Donnell Johnson. The jury required approximately four hours of deliberation following a five-week trial before state Superior Court Judge Stuart Peim.

It was approximately 2:45 a.m. on March 5, 2011 when shots rang out near the AllStar Nightclub in the area of Court and 3rd streets in Elizabeth, according to Union County Assistant Prosecutor Albert Cernadas Jr., who prosecuted the case. Elizabeth Police Department Detective Jim Malone was on patrol in the vicinity and arrived at the shooting scene within seconds, pulling over the vehicle in which Hearns and Fowler were traveling and recovering the handgun that was used in the shooting, Cernadas said.

Johnson was rushed to a local hospital but died shortly thereafter, and a swift-moving joint investigation involving the Elizabeth Police Department and the Union County Homicide Task Force led to charges being filed against Hearns and Fowler. The investigation determined that the fatal shooting of Johnson was carried out in retaliation following a January 2011 physical altercation between Johnson, Fowler, and several other men.

Both Hearns and Fowler are expected to receive sentences of 30 years to life in state prison. Sentencing has been scheduled for September 5 before Judge Peim.