Murder Conviction Overturned, Innocent Man Walks Free After Serving Nearly 30 Years

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Missouri man, who spent nearly 30 years in prison for a murder he insisted he did not commit, has finally been released.

Lamar Johnson was convicted in July 1995 of the murder of Marcus Boyd, 25, who had been killed two months earlier. The evidence at trial showed that Johnson and another masked suspect found Boyd on his front porch, and shot him after a dispute over $40 worth of drugs.

James Gregory Elking, who was there to buy crack cocaine that day, was shot and killed by two masked men. Elking later identified Johnson in a police line-up and testified at Johnson’s trial.

Phil Campbell, the second masked man who has since died, pleaded guilty to Boyd’s murder and was sentenced to seven years less for his cooperation in the case against Johnson. William Mock, a prisonhouse informant, testified that he heard Campbell and Johnson say that they “should’ve shot” Elking.

Johnson was convicted of the charges at Jefferson City Correctional Center. He spent 28 years trying unsuccessfully to prove his innocence. Kim Gardner, St. Louis Circuit Attorney, filed numerous court motions for Johnson’s conviction to be reviewed by the court. However, every attempt was unsuccessful.

In 2021, Missouri’s legislature passed a bill that made it easier for prosecutors and judges to reexamine older convictions when new evidence is available. The new law gave Gardner the confidence to appeal Johnson’s conviction. A new hearing was scheduled for December.

Johnson testified during the five-day hearing that Boyd was with Erika Barrow the whole night. He only left for a few minutes to go to a corner to buy drugs. Johnson stated that the corner he went to was “several blocks away” from Boyd’s porch, which meant that he was not near the crime scene.

In her testimony, Barrow confirmed Johnson’s story by claiming Johnson only left her for “five minutes,” which she claimed would not be enough time for Johnson to murder Boyd and then return.

Elking testified as well at the hearing. He stated that he was “bullied” by the police and “pressured” into identifying someone from the lineup. However, he couldn’t see the faces of the attackers due to their masks. Elking stated that Johnson’s identification many years ago “has been haunting” him since then. Gardner claimed that Elking received at least $4,000 for his testimony in the original trial.

Campbell and James Howard (46), both signed affidavits declaring that they had killed Boyd and that Johnson wasn’t involved in Boyd’s death. Howard is currently in prison serving life for various crimes, including murder. This occurred three years after Boyd’s death. Howard also testified at Johnson’s hearing, saying that he had shot Boyd twice before and that Campbell had shot Boyd once. Johnson reiterated his assertion that he was not present at the shooting and wasn’t involved in it.

Johnson’s lawyers claim that Johnson’s attorneys did not present any evidence to contest the overwhelming amount of evidence Lamar Johnson and the circuit attorney had accumulated.

Judge David Mason must have agreed. Mason ruled on Tuesday that Johnson’s lawyers, including those from the Midwest Innocence Project who had joined him pro bono, had presented “reliable proof of actual innocence” — evidence that is so reliable it actually meets the state requirement to overturn conviction.

Mason not only vacated Johnson’s conviction but also stated that the combined testimony was “clear and convincing evidence” that Lamar Johnson was innocent of Marcus Boyd’s murder.

Johnson, now at 49, left the court as a free man after completing a few brief processing procedures.

Johnson stated, “This is incredible.” Johnson later said that he had to rebuild his life from scratch. He must reconnect with his children, find work, and learn how to be a good citizen. He said, “It’s like being in a prison for your first time.” “You fear the unknown. Now, I must make a living.

Johnson declared, “I can survive.”

Following the release of the statement by the Missouri Attorney General’s Office, following the vacated conviction, Madeline Sieren, spokesperson for the Missouri Attorney General’s Office, stated that “As he stated at his swearing-in, Attorney General Andrew Bailey is committed to enforcing laws as they are written.” “Our office supported the rule of law, and worked to maintain the original verdict that Johnson’s peers found appropriate based upon the facts presented at trial.”

According to the New York Post, the office stated that it would not take further action in this case.