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Person You Should Know: Roger Johnson

Person You Should Know: Roger Johnson

  • Photo by Anthony Jinson

Prosecuting Attorney, Boone County

Job description

Represent the citizens of Boone County in prosecution of criminal matters.

Professional background

I began working in 2005 as Assistant Attorney General representing the State of Missouri in criminal appeals. In 2008, I joined the Boone County Office of the Prosecuting Attorney as an assistant prosecutor. I spent a year doing educational law representing school districts before returning to the prosecutor’s office in 2017. In 2018, I was promoted to first assistant. I left in April 2021 to join the Van Matre Law Firm where I handled criminal and family law cases.

Hometown

Norwood, MO

Years lived in Columbia

21 years total, including four years at Mizzou as an undergraduate.

Quote you live by

“[A prosecutor] in a peculiar and very definite sense the servant of the law, the twofold aim of which is that guilt shall not escape or innocence suffer. He may prosecute with earnestness and vigor—indeed, he should do so. But, while he may strike hard blows, he is not at liberty to strike foul ones.” Justice Sutherland, Berger vs. United States.

Favorite volunteer/community activity

Art in the Park 

Every decision we make is guided first by what is just and right. 

Roger Johnson, Boone County prosecuting attorney
Favorite recent project

I worked with a team to transition the prosecutor’s office to paperless files. The project was completed just before the start of the pandemic and allowed us to work and appear for court remotely. Previously, that would have been impossible. On a personal level, my daughter and I just built a rolling lumber storage cart for our workshop.

A COMO person you admire and why

Shaunda Hamilton. Shaunda is a local entrepreneur and activist who founded the nonprofit, Boone County Community Against Violence, after losing her daughter to gun violence. The organization started by providing training on CPR and ways to stop bleeding. The group has grown to promote conversations between community groups about how to make our community safer. 

Why you are passionate about your job

As prosecutors, our job and obligation are to seek justice, and in all things to try to do the right thing the right way. If we don’t think something is right, we don’t do it. In the legal field that’s a unique opportunity. And I’m grateful to have the opportunity to work towards making our community better and safer.

Why you are passionate about your company

Boone County is a great place to live and raise a family, and our county government is made up of some really dedicated and talented public servants.

If you weren’t doing this for a living, you would

Be sailing around the world.

What people should know about your profession

My job is to seek justice, not just to try to get convictions or send people to prison. If we don’t believe a person committed an offense, we don’t have to charge them. If we learn something that makes us doubt a person’s guilt, we can dismiss a case at any time. We aren’t always pushing to send people to prison. Our goal is to make the community safer. Sometimes the best way to do that is to use resources we have to help people get jobs or treat addiction. There are crimes, including violent crimes, drug dealing, and crimes against children, where we are fighting hard to lock people away. But that’s not because of pressure to look good or just win. Every decision we make is guided first by what is just and right. 

Very little of real prosecution is accurately shown on TV or movies. It just isn’t dramatic enough, and making it into something dramatic has created a lot of confusion and misconception about what is really happening.

The next challenge facing your industry

Over time, there has been less and less cooperation by citizens and witnesses and more handling disputes through violence. When people don’t believe in and participate in the legal justice system, vigilantism rises. In the court system, there are rules designed to protect the rights of the accused and ensure fairness. But the vigilante system is not guided by fairness or justice. Instead, if someone insults you, you shoot up their house. And because you shot up their house, their friend shoots up your friend’s house. Eventually people get killed, and the cycles goes on. Too many are being hurt and killed by violence. We must do better in criminal justice to restore trust and increase participation.

Your next professional goal

I want to improve management skills. As the office has grown, the needs of the organization have changed, but our management development hasn’t kept pace. Toward that end, the county provided the opportunity for me to take the National Association of Counties High Performance Leadership class, and I am reading some books on organizational change and management.

Biggest lesson learned in business

Welcoming and encouraging feedback is critical. We owe it to ourselves and the community we serve to be the best we can, and improvement requires honest feedback.

Greatest weakness

Mornings. I’m not naturally a morning person and prefer to work later instead, but we are in a morning-schedule world.

What you do for fun

Travel, read, and watch movies with my wife and daughter.

Family

My wife, Jessica, and our daughter, Savannah, and our two dogs.

Favorite place in COMO

Top Ten Wines

Most people don’t know that

After college I worked at an apple orchard, and during the Halloween season dressed in a head-to-toe gorilla costume for the haunted corn maze.

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