|Cause of death||Stabbed by Dick Coonan|
|Occupation||Civil rights attorney|
|Portrayed by||Unknown actress|
Her violent death was the main inspiration for her daughter to join the police force.
Johanna's life has only been discussed in recollections from her family and associates. She was a loving, caring wife and mother. Jim Beckett, reminiscing about his relationship with her to Castle, said that it took years for him to get together with Johanna romantically and that he regretted how much time they had lost. Kate remembered that her favorite phrase was "I told you so".
At one point, Johanna organized a group intending to clean up the dangerous Washington Heights neighborhood. She incurred the wrath of drug lord Vulcan Simmons, but he apparently did not actually act on this hostility.
Johanna Beckett was a woman who only cared about the truth. In her work with the Justice Initiative, she sought to re-open closed cases and exonerate the wrongly convicted. Joe Pulgatti contacted many such attorneys, insisting that he'd been framed for the murder of undercover FBI agent Bob Armen many years before. As a mob enforcer, Pulgatti was hardly a sympathetic or credible character. Beckett was the only lawyer to respond to his plea for help.
Pulgatti claimed that he and Armen had been accosted by a group of unknown kidnappers who were preying on mob leaders at the time. When Armen tried to draw his weapon to defend Pulgatti, the kidnappers accidentally shot him in the struggle. The attack took place in an alley, where the only ones present were Pulgatti, Armen, and the kidnappers. Later, police claimed that witnesses placed Pulgatti in the alley. This led Pulgatti to realize that the kidnappers were themselves rogue police officers.
What Johanna didn't know was that the police officers had been discovered already. Then-Assistant District Attorney William Bracken had learned about the police officers' crimes years before, but instead of pursuing the case, he blackmailed the officers into turning over their illegally-obtained ransom money. The money had financed his election to the House of Representatives and began a rise to power that ended in the U.S. Senate. Re-opening and solving the Pulgatti case would reveal his own corruption and ruin him. Bracken began a massive campaign to eliminate this vulnerability.
He hired contract killer Dick Coonan to kill Johanna and the other people involved in her investigation.
Coonan killed Johanna with a single stab to her kidneys, then followed up with many, more random stabbings to create the impression that she had been killed in a random gang violence. She was left dead in the alley where Bob Armen had been shot. Bracken then pressured John Raglan, the investigating officer of both the Armen and Johanna Beckett murders, and himself on the of the kidnappers, to write the investigation off as random gang violence.
Unknown to anyone at the time, Roy Montgomery, a young detective and the true killer of Armen, had turned over an audio cassette to Johanna that contained evidence implicating Bracken and also revealing he planned to kill her if she didn't stop. Despite having this threat to her life, Johanna didn't stop her search and hid the tape in her statue of elephant figurines that she kept on her desk.
After Her Murder
Johanna's murder affected those close to her very deeply. Jim Beckett, her husband and a fellow lawyer and co-worker, turned to alcoholism as an anodyne to his pain. It was only after many years, great difficulty, and the love and support of his daughter, that he became sober.
Her daughter Kate, then a pre-law student at Stanford, abandoned her dreams of becoming a lawyer and became a police officer instead. Kate pursued her mother's case obsessively, and it nearly destroyed her. Many of her colleagues encountered her in this period, and both admired and were disturbed by her drive. Despite her best efforts, she made no progress. To avoid an emotional breakdown, she abandoned her efforts and channeled her pain into a relentless focus on gaining justice for others as her mother had.
The first major break in the case came when Richard Castle, a writer who was semi-stalking her for material to use in his novels, decided to look into the case himself, secretly. He called on Doctor Clark Murray, who discovered Johanna's true cause of death and confirmed that it was a professional hit. With great reluctance, Beckett re-opened her investigation. Murray's expertise later revealed that an unrelated murder was committed by the same killer; this led Castle and Beckett to identify Dick Coonan. Coonan was killed by Kate before he could reveal Bracken's involvement.
Kate's obsessive drive to reveal the man who hired the Coonan forced Bracken to hire still more contract killers and ever more extreme measures to protect himself, however, Kate eventually identified and confronted him, though she initially lacked the hard evidence required to arrest and convict him. She continues to project her own yearning for justice and desire to emulate her mother into her other cases.
Castle arranged for the establishment of the Johanna Beckett scholarship at her old university, which would provide a full ride to a student who would use their legal career to follow her example and defend those who would normally go overlooked.
In "Veritas", after Kate was framed for Vulcan Simmons' murder, and she and Castle were forced to go on the run, Michael Smith, a friend of Roy Montgomery, met with them clandestinely, revealing that Bracken was searching for a cassette tape containing evidence proving he ordered all the murders, but he didn't believe it existed. After narrowly escaping Bracken's hit men and receiving a concussion, Beckett remembered her first meeting with Montgomery, where he hinted he created the recording to give to her mother. Realizing there must be a clue in her mother's encoded notes back at her apartment, Kate and Castle return there.
Looking at the last entries meticulously, Castle realizes that Johanna possessed the tape and hid it in a family possession. After being arrested by a SWAT team and brought back to the 12th Precinct, Kate spotted the elephant statue on her desk, having kept it in the same manner like Johanna had with her own desk. Recalling that her mother thought of them as a symbol of their family, Kate managed to get to it and broke it open, revealing the tape inside.
Once played before the Internal Affairs head and Captain Victoria Gates, the recording of Bracken's blackmail and planned assassinations came to light. Her innocence proven, Kate then arrested Bracken on live television as he announced he planned to run for President, for conspiracy, fraud, and Johanna's murder, finally bringing justice to Johanna's death. Castle tells Kate that wherever she is now, Johanna would be immensely proud of her.
- Johanna has been portrayed by two unknown models, always in photographs. One of the photographs is actress Teri Garr.
- Her tombstone reads "Vincit omnia veritas" (Latin for "truth conquers all").