Gardner again seeks to expunge Lamar Johnson’s murder conviction
His case was compelling enough to prompt a new Missouri law that makes it easier for prosecutors to get new hearings in cases like Johnson’s.
ST. LOUIS — The St. Louis chief prosecutor on Wednesday filed a motion asking a judge to overturn the conviction that sent a man to prison nearly 30 years ago for a murder he has long claimed did not happen. committed.
Lamar Johnson was convicted of the 1994 murder of 25-year-old Marcus Boyd in an alleged drug dispute. Johnson’s claims of innocence and other new evidence in recent years have convinced St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner that he was wrongly convicted.
In fact, his case was compelling enough to prompt a new Missouri law that makes it easier for prosecutors to get new hearings in cases like Johnson’s.
Citing the new law, Gardner’s office filed a motion to set aside or set aside the judgment in the Johnson case. The office’s statement released Wednesday evening did not provide any further details.
“We hope the court will hear our motion and correct this manifest injustice on Mr. Johnson’s behalf to strengthen the integrity of our criminal justice system,” Gardner’s office said in the statement.
This isn’t the first time Gardner, a Democrat, has sought to clear Johnson. In 2019, she requested a new trial in a case that ended in Missouri Supreme Court. Republican Attorney General Eric Schmitt’s office argued that Gardner lacked the authority to make the request so many years after the case was judged. The Decision of March 2021 on Schmitt’s side.
Lindsay Runnels, a lawyer for Johnson, then called her “sad that rules and technicalities matter more than someone’s innocence”.
On Wednesday, she spoke to 5 On Your Side.
“All the evidence against Mr Johnson has crumbled over the years and there is nothing left to back up the verdict,” Runnels said.
A new state law that took effect in August 2021 gave prosecutors the power to request a hearing if they have new evidence of a wrongful conviction. State Sen. John Rizzo, a Kansas City Democrat, said the Johnson case prompted him and other lawmakers to write the law with input from prosecutors, defense attorneys, law enforcement officers and representatives of groups working to free prisoners.
Johnson was found guilty of murdering Boyd for a $40 drug debt and received a life sentence while another suspect, Phil Campbell, pleaded guilty to a reduced charge in exchange for a seven-year sentence of jail.
Johnson claimed he was with his girlfriend miles away when Boyd was killed. Meanwhile, years after the murder, the state’s only witness recanted his identification of Johnson and Campbell as the shooters. Two other men confessed to killing Boyd and said Johnson was not involved.
Gardner launched an investigation in conjunction with attorneys from the Midwest Innocence Project. She said the investigation revealed misconduct by one of the former prosecutors in her office, secret payments made to the witness, police reports falsified and testimony perjured.
The former prosecutor and the detective who investigated the case dismissed Gardner’s allegations.
“When you know your client is innocent, you can’t get away from it. You do everything you can, including lose and lose and lose until you’re heard. Whatever Lamar Johnson needs, it’s from a hearing and it looks like he’s going to get one finally,” Runnells said.
“More important to me than anything is being able to bond and be with my family again. So my mom can rest knowing that I didn’t have to spend the rest of my life in jail for something I didn’t do. Johnson told NBC Nightly News in 2021.
The new law spurred by Johnson’s case freed another long-time inmate last year.
Kevin Strickland of Kansas City, Missouri, was released from prison at age 62 in November after spending more than 40 years behind bars for a triple murder. He maintained that he was not at the crime scene, and Jackson County District Attorney Jean Peters Baker announced that his examination convinced her that Strickland was telling the truth.
After the Missouri Supreme Court in June 2021 refused to hear Strickland’s request for release, Peters Baker used the state’s new law to request a hearing. At that hearing, a judge ordered Strickland’s release.