Convicted killer Jordan Towers launches court bid to clear name over murder of Sunderland dad Kevin Johnson
A Sunderland man who was convicted as a teenager of a brutal murder was back before judges today as he launched a bid to clear his name.
Jordan Towers, now 27, was convicted of murder and jailed for life at the age of just 16 at Newcastle Crown Court in October 2007.
He had been involved in an incident in which 22-year-old dad, Kevin Johnson, was killed in a savage attack in Pennywell in May 2007.
Mr Johnson was assaulted and stabbed after confronting Towers and two of his friends about their rowdy behaviour in the street.
Although Towers, then of Fell Road, did not use a knife, he was convicted of the murder on the basis of joint enterprise and jailed.
His friends, Tony Hawkes and Dean Curtis, were also locked up for their parts in the killing and handed life terms.
Towers is now appealing after his case was taken up by the Criminal Cases Review Commission (CCRC), which investigates suspected miscarriages of justice.
His barrister, Henry Blaxland QC, said there was evidence which suggested that Towers did not "intend" Mr Johnson to be badly hurt.
"In the CCRC's opinion, there were a number of very significant factors which significantly weakened the inference of an intent on the part of Jordan Towers to cause really serious harm," he told the Court of Appeal, in London.
He told a panel of three judges, led by Sir Brian Leveson, that the killing occurred during an "unplanned outbreak of disorder in a chance encounter".
Towers and his friends were behaving "rowdily", Mr Johnson went to remonstrate and was killed in the violence which ensued.
"It was not part of a criminal venture where serious violence was inherently likely," the QC told the court.
"This is a case in which the incident can properly be described as occurring essentially spontaneously.
"This is not a group of young men who were specifically out for trouble.
"Mr Towers' own actions amounted to an unarmed scuffle and drunkenly throwing a brick, which missed.
"At the time of the fatal attack, he was standing some feet away, just watching.
"The evidence showed that he was in a different position from the other two defendants. He was standing apart from them."
Towers appeared in court via a video link from prison, but spoke only to confirm his name.
Sir Brian, sitting with Mr Justice Nicol and Sir Brian Keith, reserved the court's decision on the appeal until a later date.
Having served over a decade in prison, Towers will be entitled to apply for parole later this year, even if his appeal fails.