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Posted on Tue, Aug 28, 2012 : 4:07 p.m.

Judge rules woman was defending herself by stabbing husband

By Kyle Feldscher

A woman who was accused of stabbing her husband at least twice after he allegedly punched her in the face had three criminal charges against her dismissed at a hearing Tuesday.

Consuelia Johnson, 37, had been charged with assault with intent to murder, assault with intent to do great bodily harm and assault with a dangerous weapon for the Aug. 18 incident at her home in the 1300 block of Candlewood Lane in Ypsilanti Township. Deputies responded to the home at 3:04 a.m. that day for a report of a domestic incident.

Consuelia Johnson and her husband James were standing outside the home yelling at each other when Deputy Daniel Buffa arrived on scene, the deputy testified Tuesday. James Johnson was bleeding from puncture wounds on the left side of his chest and on his thigh, Buffa said. Consuelia Johnson’s eye was bruised and appeared to have been punched, he said.

Buffa testified Consuelia Johnson had been in her bedroom when a van pulled up to the house and her husband got out of the passenger seat. Under the impression that he had been watching TV, she went outside to see what was going on. Her husband called the owner of the van back and showed Consuelia that one of her friends had dropped him off.

After talking with her friend, Consuelia Johnson went back inside where her husband confronted her, Buffa said. He accused her of thinking he was cheating on her.

“She said he made a statement … and then punched her right in the face,” Buffa said.

The two of them immediately got into a physical altercation for a matter of moments before her son came out of his bedroom and tackled the two of them onto a nearby couch. Landing on top of the pile, Consuelia Johnson went into the kitchen while her son held down James, attempting to separate the two, Buffa said.

Consuelia returned with a knife that had a nine- to 10-inch blade, Buffa said. She admitted to Buffa that she had stabbed her husband in the side and in his thigh.

Huron Valley Ambulance took James Johnson to St. Joseph Mercy Hospital where he was treated for his injuries, which were non-life threatening.

Buffa interviewed Consuelia Johnson at the scene of the incident and said she told police she only acted because she believed her husband was going to hurt either her or her son.

“I asked if she was in fear of her husband if (her son) had let him go, and she said, ‘Yes,’” Buffa said.

It was this fear that caused District Judge Joseph Burke to rule he found no evidence Consuelia Johnson had committed a crime, ruling that she had used self-defense.

From a legal standpoint, Washtenaw County Assistant Prosecutor J. Samuel Holtz said Consuelia Johnson had — quite literally — brought a knife to a fistfight. He said that she had used excessive force when she stabbed her husband and that is a crime.

“We have a knife being used after she had been punched,” he said. “I’m not an advocate of what James Johnson did to his wife. The fact that her son was there and holding the elder Johnson back shows she was not in fear of a deadly attack.”

Nonetheless, Burke granted Washtenaw County First Assistant Public Defender Timothy Neimann’s request to dismiss the charges. Burke said the puncture wounds on James Johnson showed that his wife was attempting to stop him from assaulting her and was trying to protect her son. He did not believe that she was attempting to kill or cause great bodily harm, only that she was defending herself.

“There is no probable cause to show she committed any of the crimes charged against her; the case is dismissed,” Burke said.

The decision immediately caused Consuelia Johnson to break out in tears. She was ushered into a back room with her family members to give her some time to gather herself and did not speak to

Niemann said he was happy with Burke’s decision but was surprised at the dismissal. He added that James Johnson has been charged with domestic violence for the same incident.

“I’m shocked right now. Obviously, I’m thrilled for her,” he said, pausing. “I’m just at a loss for words.”

Kyle Feldscher covers cops and courts for He can be reached at or you can follow him on Twitter.



Tue, Jan 15, 2013 : 7:55 a.m.

Thumbs up for Judge Joseph Burke, for his complete comprehension of what "self defense" actually means. Thumbs down for Assistant Prosecutor J. Samuel Holtz, for not understanding the concept of self defense which includes: taking a knife to a fist fight when the opponent is bigger, stronger and has the ADVANTAGE of superior force. Peculiar: that Holtz doesn't understand the true meaning of the phrase which he paraphrases. i.e., "don't take a knife to a gun fight" actually (clearly) means: don't take an inferior means of force into a conflict where the opponent has an obvious advantage in force. For a person working as a prosecutor: this is a significant failure in reasoning ability. Time for a job performance review of this guy, I'd say.

Angela Henry

Sun, Sep 2, 2012 : 4:59 p.m.

It is not legal to defend yourself in this country.... According to prosecution, the wife should have went to jail because her knife kept her from continually being punched. It was her fault she couldn't keep up with her husbands fists.....

Are you serious?

Wed, Aug 29, 2012 : 5:52 p.m.

For those of you who did not know it, Judge Burke was a chief assistant prosecutor for Washtenaw County for many years before being appointed to the bench. I assume none of the commentators were in the court room or have read the police report. That is why we have prosecutors, defense attorneys, and judges. This is the key sentence in the story: "Burke said the puncture wounds on James Johnson showed that his wife was attempting to stop him from assaulting her and was trying to protect her son. He did not believe that she was attempting to kill or cause great bodily harm, only that she was defending herself." I suspect if she had been trying to kill him she would have gone for the center of the chest. If two people who are in a fight are of equal size, strength, etc., then the issue of escalating would come into play. We don't know if that was the case here.


Wed, Aug 29, 2012 : 3:13 a.m.

This must have been a frightening experience for a wife and son. Hope something is in place to break the cycle so ,the son doesn't repeat this pattern.


Wed, Aug 29, 2012 : 1:09 a.m.

District Judge Joseph Burke dismissed an assault with intent to murder case.


Wed, Aug 29, 2012 : 12:10 a.m.

Can someone answer a question. How old is the son? Just seems like this should be a factor.


Tue, Aug 28, 2012 : 9 p.m.

The judge ruled incorrectly if he was using her fear as justification. What the judge did...was set a precedent that states that IF you fear for your life....even if it's may respond with deadly force....even if you are incorrect in your assumption of danger. Michigan "castle laws" already give you the right to use deadly force if you are "suddenly and violently" attacked...meaning you don't have time to assess the threat BUT the immediacy and violence of that threat still justifies deadly force. This law only protects you if it is a "sudden and violent" a sucker punch for instance. Also...isn't this pretty much sanctioning NOT calling the police and taking matters into your own hands? This makes it OK to assault someone with deadly force regardless of actual long as you THINK you're in danger. Remember...she stabbed him while her son was holding him at the time...that's not defensive.

Matt Cooper

Wed, Aug 29, 2012 : 4:30 p.m.

OT, as I understand it this was an ongoing event. It didn't stop, allow time for thoughtful reflection as to what to do next and then resume. The fact that her son was holding down the husband doesn't mean a thing as this was a situation, perpetrated (by all reports) by the husband, of ongoing physical combat that placed the woman in fear for both her own safety as well as her sons safety. Secondly, and again according to reports and court testimony, the husband entered her house, assaulted her and doesn't appear to have had any inclination to stop his assault but for the intervention of her son. Also, have you ever tried to restrain an angry person who has no qualms about physical aggression? I have many times and it's not as easy as you might think. How anyone could argue this was not self-defense is beyond me.


Wed, Aug 29, 2012 : 1:06 p.m.

I don't think it should be considered self defense if someone else is holding them while you stab him. If she had time to run in the kitchen and get a knife while the son held him seems like she could have grabbed something a belt or anything to tie him up with. It would be interesting to know the size and age of the son.

Matt Cooper

Tue, Aug 28, 2012 : 10:41 p.m.

So, rather than do something to defend herself and her son, who was also engaged in physical combat by holding the husband down...she should have done what? Self-defense assumes fear is involved. Secondly, as to your point about being 'sucker punched'...were you there? Did you see the husband punch her? How do you know it wasn't a sucker punch? ""She said he made a statement … and then punched her right in the face," Buffa said. Sure doesn't sound like a love tap to me. Finally, in any self-defense claim, the actual danger of being killed is not an issue. The only issue is if the person assaulted initally BELIEVES there is an actual threat. Example: If you go into a bank with your hand inside your jacket and tell the teller it's a gun, they don't have to actually see a gun for you to be convicted of armed robbery even if you didn't have a gun at all. It's easy to play Monday-morning quarterback, but the whole criminal charge hangs on what was her perception of the situation at the moment it happens. If she believes she or her son were in imminent danger of being killed or otherwise harmed, she's not guilty.

Dutch Thomas

Tue, Aug 28, 2012 : 8:47 p.m.

wonder if the prosecutor will appeal...interesting ruling.


Tue, Aug 28, 2012 : 8:44 p.m.

This WAS NOT a fist fight, Mr. Holtz. She was attacked and he was escalating by the sounds of it. A fist fight implies that both parties were mutual combatants.

Mr. Ed

Tue, Aug 28, 2012 : 8:32 p.m.

She went into the kitchen to get a knife and went back to stab her husband. Why did she not leave the area and call the police. Wow

Matt Cooper

Tue, Aug 28, 2012 : 10:33 p.m.

1. It's her house. Why should she run away when he entered her home to cause her harm? 2. Her son was engaged in a physical altercation with the husband in trying to keep him from further attacking his mother. Why should she run away and leave her son there to fend for himself?