Johnson was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole for the Oct. 1994 murder of Marcus Boyd, who was shot dead on his front porch by two masked men. Police and prosecutors blamed the killing on a dispute over drug money.
Johnson maintained his innocence from the outset, saying he was with his girlfriend miles away when the crime occurred.
St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner, who filed a motion in August seeking Johnson’s release after an investigation her office conducted with help from the Innocence Project, applauded the ruling.
“Mr. Lamar Johnson. Thank you. You’re free,” she said before the gathered press. “This is Valentine’s Day and this is historical.”
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 will take no further action in the case. She again defended the office’s push to keep Johnson behind bars.
“As he stated when he was sworn in, Attorney General (Andrew) Bailey is committed to enforcing the laws as written,” Sieren wrote. “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. Johnson’s attorneys blasted the state attorney general’s office after the hearing, saying it “never stopped claiming Lamar was guilty and was comfortable to have him languish and die in prison.”
“Yet, when this State’s highest law enforcement officials 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,” they said in a statement.
Mr. Johnson plans to reconnect with his family and enjoy experiences he was denied for most of his adult life while locked up, his lawyers said.
“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.”
Author: Linda .R. Jones