The stories of the wrongfully convicted are not new in the land of the free.
According to NBC News, Lamar Johnson was convicted of murder back in 1995 even though there was possible evidence of witness tampering and two others confessed to the murder.
Back in 2019, Johnson was denied a new trial because Missouri laws did not allow convictions to be revisited with a new trial after 15 days. At the time, prosecutors were 24 years too late. Now, a law passed in Missouri may be the key to getting Lamar Johnson out of prison after 26 years.
When Johnson went to prison his two daughters were babies, now he’s a grandfather. “I’ve never seen the ocean, never been in a plane,” Johnson says in an interview with NBC, “I want to hug my mother.”
In the law that goes into effect on Aug. 28, Missouri prosecutors will now have the power to overturn wrongful convictions years later. However, According to St Louis Public Radio for NPR, the attorney general can play a role in keeping Johnson in prison.
The new legislation states that if a prosecutor files a motion to vacate or set aside a judgement, the attorney general’s office could appear, question witnesses and make arguments at the hearing.
But the attorney general would not be a party in the case, as in the Johnson case, Wolff said.
If the prosecutor wins, then that’s the end of the attorney general’s involvement. The prosecuting or circuit attorney would likely not call for a new trial, and the person would go free.
But if the prosecutor loses, they could file an appeal and the attorney general could file a motion to intervene or dismiss the appeal.
According to the Washington Post, Johnson and another Black man that prosecutors say was wrongfully convicted, Kevin Strickland, were not given a pardon by Missouri Governor Mike Parson back in June. Gov. Parson decided to use his pardoning power on the white couple who brandished guns at St. Louis protestors last summer. Remember them?
“I can assure you we will file under this new law,” Kim Gardner, the St. Louis circuit attorney responded in her NBC interview. Missouri’s Attorney General Eric Schmitt responded that he is waiting to see what’s filed.