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Crime News

Judge Overturns Wrongful Murder Conviction Of Man Incarcerated Nearly 3 Decades

Lamar Johnson spent 28 years in prison for the 1994 murder of Marcus Boyd, a killing two other men subsequently took responsibility for.

By Kate Zincone
Lamar Johnson reacts after his murder conviction is vacated

A Missouri judge on Tuesday overturned the conviction of a man who has spent the past 28 years in prison, declaring his innocence in a murder he did not commit.

Lamar Johnson, 50, and his legal team celebrated as Circuit Judge David Mason issued his ruling in Johnson’s favor. In making his decision, Mason stated that he needed “reliable evidence of actual innocence – evidence so reliable that it actually passes the standard of clear and convincing” to liberate Johnson of his conviction, the Associated Press reported.

He got that evidence and Johnson left the courthouse a free man, eagerly greeting reporters and extending gratitude to all of the people who contributed to his win.

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He intends to spend his newfound freedom reconnecting with family and enjoying the experiences that he has been denied throughout his adult life, his lawyers noted. 

“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,” they stated. 

Johnson was convicted of the Oct. 30, 1994 murder of Marcus Boyd. Two masked men shot Boyd to death on his front porch over what prosecutors explained was a drug money dispute, the AP reported.

Johnson said that he spent the night of the incident with his girlfriend, Erika Barrow, who also testified on his behalf.

The duo maintained that they were separated for only a few minutes that night, while Johnson stepped out to make a brief drug sale several blocks from where Boyd was killed.

Barrow noted that the near three miles between their location and Boyd’s home was too far for Johnson to have traveled there and back within five minutes, according to previous Oxygen.com reporting.

Johnson maintained his alibi and his innocence from the get-go, but was convicted and sentenced to life in prison. Simultaneously, Phil Campbell, a second suspect, pleaded guilty to a reduced charge and accepted a seven-year sentence.

Another man, James Howard, would subsequently come forward saying that he had joined Campbell that night and was responsible for Boyd's murder. Howard, 46 and already serving a life sentence in a separate murder case, said Johnson wasn't present. He and Campbell, who has since died, signed an affidavit stating their involvement and Johnson's innocence.

“The evidence that proved [Johnson’s] 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,” Johnson’s lawyers stated.

Howard’s confession, in combination with the recanted testimony from a key witness, propelled Johnson to freedom.

Johnson’s case has led to a new state law, making it easier for prosecutors to obtain a hearing in cases with new evidence of a wrongful conviction. This law has provided other falsely incarcerated inmates the opportunity to advocate for their innocence and meet the same success as Johnson and his team.