Inmate found mentally fit to stand trial in Minnesota correctional officer's death

Barbed wire tops a fence separating two parts of Stillwater prison.
Barbed wire tops a fence separating two parts of Stillwater Correctional Facility in Bayport, Minn., on Jan. 25, 2019.
Evan Frost | MPR News

A Minnesota inmate charged with killing an on-duty corrections officer with a hammer and knife has been found mentally fit to stand trial, a judge ruled Friday.

Edward Johnson is accused of bludgeoning Joseph Gomm at the Minnesota Correctional Facility in Stillwater on July 18, 2018. His trial on first-degree murder charges was scheduled for June but was delayed as the court considered whether Johnson understood the court process enough to assist in his defense.

The St. Paul Pioneer Press reported that Johnson's public defender, Virginia Murphy, said during a brief hearing in Washington County District Court that she would not contest the evaluation that found Johnson competent.

That brought relief to Gomm's relatives, their lawyer said.

“My clients are elated because it can finally proceed to an adjudicated trial,” said Mike Padden, who was retained by Gomm’s heirs to represent them in a possible wrongful-death lawsuit. “There are no more technical, legal glitches. It’s going to go forward.”

The trial could take place during the middle of next year.

At the time of Gomm's killing, Johnson was serving a 29-year sentence for killing his girlfriend in 2002. Prosecutors say Johnson used a prison-issued hammer and an improvised knife to stab Gomm in the chest twice.

Before you go...

MPR News is dedicated to bringing you clarity in coverage from our reporters across the state, stories that connect us, and conversations that provide perspectives when we need it most. We rely on your help to do this. Your donation has the power to keep MPR News strong and accessible to all during this crisis and beyond.