Johnson was convicted alongside Phil Campbell in 1994 over the murder of Marcus Boyd and sentenced to life in prison, but maintained his innocence from day one.
According to the Associated Press, Circuit Judge David Mason argued that Johnson and his legal team had presented "reliable evidence of actual innocence — evidence so reliable that it actually passes the standard of clear and convincing."
"This is unbelievable," Johnson said as he left the courthouse surrounded by friends and family.
The key piece of evidence that led to the overturning of Johnson's conviction was testimony from 46-year-old James Howard, who admitted that it was actually he who had killed Boyd alongside Campbell. It was later revealed that both men had signed affidavits years ago declaring that they were the perpetrators, not Johnson.
At the time of the murder, Johnson had been at his then-girlfriend's house, miles from where the incident took place. Despite the fact that his story was corroborated, the jury found him guilty, due in part to the fact that another man who was at the scene had mistakenly picked him out of a lineup of potential suspects.
The Missouri attorney general's office fought to keep Johnson behind bars, denying requests for a new trial as recently as 2021, but St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner persisted, and eventually, with help from the Innocence Project, the evidence proving Johnson had been wrongfully convicted became too overwhelming to ignore.
"While today brings joy," Johnson's lawyers said following Tuesday's verdict, "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. 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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