Despite overwhelming evidence by prosecutors that a man sitting in a Missouri prison was wrongfully convicted of murder, a judge has denied a bid for a new trial saying, essentially, that the request comes 24 years too late.
Twenty-four years is how long Lamar Johnson has been trapped in prison for what even prosecutors say is a murder he didn’t commit.
In denying the motion, 22nd Circuit Judge Elizabeth Hogan said in her ruling that the request to vacate Lamar Johnson’s 1995 murder conviction was 24 years too late. Missouri laws do not allow her to review such claims, she found.
Judge Hogan also raised concerns about whether prosecutors and Johnson’s lawyers had stepped over the line in pressing for his freedom, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports. However, she said that in any case, her court now has no power to vacate his conviction.
In critiquing Hogan’s decision Friday, Lindsay Runnels, one of Johnson’s lawyers noted to Injustice Watch: “Not a single word addresses the clear, convincing, and overwhelming evidence that Mr. Johnson is innocent.”
St Louis Circuit Attorney Kimberly Gardner, whose office filed court papers detailing what it said was a wealth of evidence that prosecutors and police in Johnson’s 1994 case had lied, also plans to appeal Hogan’s decision, Injustice Watch reports.
As the Washington Post explained, Johnson received a life sentence after being convicted of murdering Marcus Boyd on Oct. 30, 1994. Prosecutors at the time charged that in the space of just five minutes, Johnson somehow left a friend’s apartment, traveled 3 miles to Boyd’s home, killed Boyd, and then traveled by foot back to his friend’s apartment.
Johnson has long proclaimed his innocence and sought his freedom. But a probe by Gardner’s office led to that office filing a motion to overturn Johnson’s conviction and grant him a new trial.
Per the Post:
Police and prosecutors made up the evidence, according to a 67-page motion seeking to vacate Johnson’s first-degree murder conviction and grant him a new trial after 24 years behind bars.
The accompanying investigative report [...] describes a staggering amount of misconduct on the part of homicide detectives and prosecutors that convicted Johnson and sent him to prison for life with no possibility of parole.
Not only did detectives write police reports containing invented statements from witnesses, the report found, but the St. Louis Circuit Attorney’s Office also made secret payments to the single eyewitness, who was pressured into making the false identification that would ultimately seal Johnson’s fate, according to the report.
Making Johnson’s plight even more egregious: Other men confessed to the murder decades ago. As the Post explained:
The men actually responsible for killing Boyd in a botched robbery would reveal themselves much sooner. They confessed as early as 1996 and 2002, saying in sworn affidavits that Johnson was not involved. Johnson continued to languish in prison anyway.
“I know Lamar Johnson is innocent of that crime because I was there and Lamar Johnson was not there,” the confessed shooter, James Howard, stated 17 years ago.
The alleged violations in Johnson’s case are so serious, the case has received national attention. As the Post-Dispatch explains:
Last week, 43 prosecutors from across the country, including St. Louis County Prosecutor Wesley Bell, filed a brief in the case supporting Gardner’s push for a new trial “to remedy the injustice uncovered in this case.”
In the meantime, Johnson, a now 45-year-old man who was barely legal when he was put away for life, must continue to languish in prison, waiting to see if justice ever finds him.