Judge Overturns Murder Conviction of Innocent Man Who Served Nearly 28 Years Behind Bars

The case makes history in St. Louis and results in the freedom of 50-year-old Lamar Johnson, who was wrongfully convicted of murder in 1995.

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A judge in Missouri has overturned the murder conviction of a man who had already served nearly 28 years behind bars despite having maintained his innocence from the very beginning of the case.

In a statement shared Tuesday, St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner reflected on the long journey to freedom for 50-year-old Lamar Johnson, who was previously convicted in connection with the fatal 1994 shooting of Marcus Boyd.

“Today the courts righted a wrong—vacating the sentence of Mr. Lamar Johnson following his wrongful conviction in 1995,” Gardner said. “Most importantly, we celebrated with Mr. Johnson and his family as he walks out of the courtroom as a free man.”

According to Gardner, this outcome shows that “a person’s right to justice and liberty is valued more than the finality of an unjust conviction.” 

Elsewhere, Gardner thanked Johnson’s attorneys, as well as the team at the not-for-profit Midwest Innocence Project (MIP) organization. The latter is part of the nationwide Innocence Network and is focused on securing freedom for those wrongfully convicted of crimes in Missouri, Arkansas, Iowa, Kansas, and Nebraska.

Johnson was convicted of first-degree murder in 1995 and later sentenced to life without parole. Per MIP, initial calls for a new trial were informed by a slew of problems with the case, including confessions to the murder from two other men and instances of police “lying and hiding exculpatory evidence.”

As the Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner law firm noted in a news release on Tuesday, Johnson’s overturned conviction is historic for the region. Attorneys Charles Weiss and Jonathan Potts, both appointed by Gardner, won what now stands as the first wrongful conviction case brought by a local prosecutor in St. Louis city history.

“Lamar’s case is fraught with the kind of mistakes we see too frequently by the police and prosecution, including pressuring eye witnesses to identify the perpetrator, even though such eye witness identification is highly questionable and improbable, paying witnesses to testify under the guise of witness protection and then failing to disclose such payments to the defense and presenting unreliable jail house informant’s testimony,” Weiss said of the victory. “On the other hand, Lamar’s case is also an example of how our system can correct such mistakes and free an innocent person.”

Following Tuesday’s ruling, Johnson is now a free man.

Complex has reached out to his attorneys for additional comment. This story may be updated.

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