A man who is about to spend his 25th year behind bars is the victim of a wrongful conviction, a prosecutor trying to get a new trial for him claims.
Lamar Johnson, 45, is currently serving a life sentence for the 1994 murder of Marcus L. Boyd, 25, who was fatally shot multiple times over a drug dispute in St. Louis. Johnson was sentenced one year later.
A new report from St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kimberly Gardner and the Conviction Integrity Unit in collaboration with the Midwest Innocence Project claims that Johnson didn’t kill Boyd and that he is the victim of a wrongful conviction, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports.
It accused both police and former St. Louis prosecutor Dwight Warren of misconduct in the form of perjury, false testimony, and even the alleged financial compensation of the sole eyewitness.
Johnson’s lawyers believe that police coerced that eyewitness into fingering Johnson in a lineup even though he said he couldn’t identify the shooters he saw because they were sporting ski masks, according to the Post-Dispatch.
That witness was allegedly paid over $4,000 and they later recanted their statements, CNN reports.
Two men, Phillip Campbell and James Howard, later signed sworn affidavits confessing to killing Boyd and said Johnson was not involved, according to those affidavits. Campbell was sentenced to seven years though he served less than six years and he has since died. Howard is serving a life sentence for a separate murder, according to CNN.
Warren denied the accusations, calling them "outlandish."
"Anybody who knows me, knows that that is not my character," he told CNN. "I could probably have every judge in this circuit ... in my day testify to that. I think it's a one-sided hatchet job."
"The witness may have been compensated out of fear for his life and we may have relocated him, but this was 25 years ago and I cannot tell you with certainty," he added.
Last week, Circuit Judge Elizabeth Hogan ruled that the court couldn’t grant a new trial because the motion was filed decades after the mandated deadline of 15 days post-verdict, CNN reports.
Gardner's office said it will appeal that ruling.
"The evidence is overwhelming," Johnson's attorney, Lindsay Runnels, told CNN over email. "The State agrees. In the interests of justice and fairness, that should be enough to overcome a missed deadline."
Johnson has tried to appeal his conviction three times before.
"There is no statute of limitations on innocence and there is no expiration date on justice," Runnels said. "A prosecutor's duty to correct errors of this magnitude is never terminated, and rightfully so. The integrity of the justice system depends on those in power telling the truth and correcting errors when they become known."
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