Lamar Johnson was convicted for the murder of Marcus Boyd in October 1994 and served a life sentence for over 27 years.
A 50-year-old man had his conviction overturned after serving nearly 28 years of a life sentence for a crime he did not commit. Lamar Johnson, a father of two, sighed in relief after the judge issued the ruling and said he was free. According to Sky News, Mr. Johnson was convicted for the murder of Marcus Boyd in October 1994. Two masked individuals shot and killed Boyd on his front porch in St Louis, Missouri. A crucial witness recanted his testimony and a prison inmate protested that it was he, not Mr. Johnson, who was involved in the killing. Circuit Judge David Mason explained that in order to come to his decision, there had to be "reliable evidence of actual innocence - evidence so reliable that it actually passes the standard of clear and convincing."
On Tuesday, Mr. Johnson walked out as a free man from the St Louis courthouse. He walked up to the reporters and thanked everyone who worked on the case, including the judge. "This is unbelievable," said Mr. Johnson. His only wish now is to reunite with his family and enjoy the experiences he was deprived of for most of his adult life while imprisoned. "While today brings joy, nothing can restore all that the state stole from him. Nothing will give him back the nearly three decades he lost while separated from his daughters and family," his lawyers added. "The evidence that proved his innocence was available at his trial, but it was kept hidden or ignored by those who saw no value in the lives of two young black men from the South Side."
St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner applauded the ruling after filing a motion in August seeking Johnson's release following an investigation her office conducted with help from the Innocence Project, proving he was telling the truth. "Mr. Lamar Johnson. Thank you. You're free," she said before the gathered press. "This is Valentine's Day and this is historical," she added. The Republican-led state attorney general's office had fought to keep Mr. Johnson behind bars. Madeline Sieren, a spokeswoman for the office, said there would be no further action in the case but pushed to keep Johnson locked up. "Our office defended the rule of law and worked to uphold the original verdict that a jury of Johnson's peers deemed to be appropriate based on the facts presented at trial."
FREEDOM!— Angie Ricono 🌻 (@angiericono) February 14, 2023
I just caught up with Lamar Johnson in downtown STL.
He used to live near here and is amazed with the ferris wheel.
Says today is overwhelming.
I’ll have more at 6:30 on @KMOV pic.twitter.com/6kdWUAsoyy
Mr. Johnson's attorneys said they "never stopped claiming Lamar was guilty and was comfortable to have him languish and die in prison," after hearing back from the state attorney general's office. The 1994 killing was blamed on a dispute over drug money by the authorities. Mr. Johnson pleaded not guilty, saying he was with his girlfriend when the crime occurred. He testified at a December hearing that while he was with his girlfriend on the night of the murder and had stepped out for a few minutes and went to his friend's house to sell drugs on a corner several blocks from where Boyd was killed. His then-girlfriend, Erika Barrow, testified that she was within except for five minutes when he left to make the drug sale.
James Howard, who is serving a life sentence for murder and other crimes, testified at the December hearing that he and Phil Campbell, the second suspect, planned to rob Mr. Boyd. He said Mr. Boyd owed him money from the sale of drugs. Howard had shot Mr. Boyd in the back of the head and neck and Campbell shot him in the side. A witness named James Elking testified in December that he was on the front porch with Mr. Boyd when the two gunmen attacked. Mr. Elking named Mr. Johnson as a suspect after feeling "bullied" and "pressured" by police. He also paid at least $4,000 after testifying and sending Mr. Joshnson to jail has been "haunting" him.