Lamar Johnson, who has been serving a life sentence in jail for nearly three decades, was set free on Tuesday, February 14, after a judge overturned his conviction.
The 50-year-old Missouri native spent nearly three decades in prison after he was wrongly convicted of his friend Marcus Boyd’s murder charges.
According to CNN, “Lamar Johnson was sentenced to life without the possibility of parole in 1995 after being convicted of murder in the death of Markus Boyd the year prior. At the time, police said Johnson and another man, Phillip Campbell, shot and killed Boyd.”
“But Johnson was given a new hearing after St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kimberly Gardner filed a motion last year saying his conviction was based in large part on false eyewitness testimony and accusing prosecutors and investigators of misconduct.”
A judge on Tuesday overturned Lamar’s conviction and set him free by ruling that there was a constitutional error in the trial and Lamar was innocent.
“There is clear and convincing evidence of Lamar Johnson’s actual innocence,” Judge David Mason ruled. “Evidence so reliable that it actually passes the standard of clear and convincing.”
As the judge announced his ruling, Lamar shook his head, and tears rolled down his eyes while a legal team member patted his shoulder.
As reported by The Guardian, “Johnson walked free after he was processed out at the courthouse. Beaming, he walked up to reporters in the courthouse lobby about two hours after the ruling and thanked everyone who worked on his case, as well as the judge.”
“This is unbelievable,” he said as he left the courtroom.
Attorney Kim Gardner applauded the decision and said to her client,
“Mr. Lamar Johnson. Thank you. You’re free.”
She added that this was a historical moment, and justice has finally prevailed for Lamar.
“This is Valentine’s Day, and this is historical,” she told the press.
“The Republican-led state attorney general’s office fought to keep Johnson locked up. A spokeswoman for the office, Madeline Sieren, said in an email that the office would take no further action in the case. She again defended the office’s push to keep Johnson behind bars,” per The Guardian.
In her email, Madeline Sieren wrote, “As he stated when he was sworn in, attorney general [Andrew] Bailey is committed to enforcing the laws as written. 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.”
Mr. Lamar’s attorney blasted the state attorney general’s office and said it always claimed that he was guilty and even wanted him to rot and die in prison.
“Yet, when this state’s highest law enforcement office could hide from a courtroom no more, it presented nothing to challenge the overwhelming body of evidence that the circuit attorney and Lamar Johnson had amassed,” their statement read.
According to his lawyers, Lamar Johnson will reconnect with his family after his release and enjoy everything he could not throughout the last 28 years.
“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 said.
“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.”
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