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Prosecutors Admit He’s Been Wrongfully in Prison for 24 Years But Judge Still Won’t Allow New Trial for Lamar Johnson

A judge in Missouri has denied a petition for a new trial for Lamar Johnson even though prosecutors say he is innocent. Lamar has been in prison for 24 years. He is serving life without the possibility of parole for the murder of Marcus Boyd — a sentence St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner says prosecutors obtained with fabricated evidence and after making secret payments to the sole eyewitness, who later recanted his testimony.

Circuit Judge Elizabeth B. Hogan has decided to deny Lamar’s trial even though St. Louis’s top prosecutor now says the man is innocent and has conceded her office engaged in serious misconduct to win his conviction.

The judge’s reason: Prosecutors missed the deadline to file the motion by “approximately 24 years.” Judge Hogan said court rules required the defendant to file his motion for a new trial within 15 days of his conviction, even though the prosecutors only uncovered new evidence supporting his innocence in recent years.

The ruling leaves the now, 45-year old, serving life without the possibility of parole.

Lamar was convicted in 1995 of the fatal shooting of then 25-year-old Marcus Boyd. His alibi, that he was with friends at an apartment, was acknowledged by prosecutors, however, they said he committed the murder when he stepped outside. According to the prosecution, Lamar traveled three miles to Boyd’s front porch, shot him, fled on foot and arrived back at the apartment — all in “no more than five minutes.”

The prosecution was able to make the jury believe this story because police gave false statements in police reports and pressured the sole eyewitness into identifying Lamar as the shooter. The state also paid more than $4,000 to the eyewitness for his cooperation, reportedly for housing and moving expenses. The witness recanted his testimony in 2003.

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Police also invented testimony about the alleged motive from four people, all of whom later told investigators that they never gave those statements to a detective, according to the CIU report.

“The violation of Johnson’s constitutional rights enabled the State of Missouri to obtain a conviction and sentence of life without the possibility of parole against Johnson despite overwhelming evidence of innocence,” the circuit attorney’s office wrote. “The undisclosed secret payments to the sole eyewitness in a case that was undeniably thin fatally undermines the reliability of the verdict.”

Johnson’s attorney, Lindsay Runnels, told The Washington Post that she and the Midwest Innocence Project planned to appeal the order. She argued that the court ignored previous rulings that have waived the 15-day deadline in the face of extraordinary circumstances and in the interest of justice. Gardner’s office also plans to appeal, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported.

“On so many levels, it’s a real interesting decision,” Runnels said. “There’s not a single word in it about Lamar Johnson’s innocence or the claims of his innocence. This is what we should expect prosecutors to do in the face of injustice. Instead, [the judge] is telling Lamar Johnson there’s no remedy for him in this court. I don’t think that can be the state of the law.”



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