Lamar Johnson Freed From Prison After Nearly 30 Years of Wrongful Imprisonment
On Tuesday, February 14th, 2023, after nearly three decades of wrongful imprisonment, Missouri Circuit Court Judge David Mason ruled that Lamar Johnson should be freed from prison, citing “clear and convincing evidence” of his innocence. Johnson was originally convicted in 1995 of killing Marcus Boyd, but had always maintained his innocence.
The case gained national attention after the Circuit Attorney’s Conviction Integrity Unit published a report in 2019 outlining the claims for Johnson’s innocence. During a December hearing, the only witness to identify Johnson as the murderer recanted his testimony. Two other men have also come forward and admitted to killing Boyd.
Judge Mason wrote in his ruling that “this combined testimony amounts to clear and convincing evidence that Lamar Johnson is innocent and did not commit the murder of Marcus Boyd either individually or acting with another”.
Johnson’s release from prison has been a long and arduous journey, taking nearly 30 years, three law firms and a non-profit, and even requiring the Missouri State Legislature to pass a law to allow for new hearings.
Despite the ruling, Johnson is not eligible for any compensation for wrongful imprisonment under state law. The Midwest Innocence Project has established a GoFundMe page to help him start his new life outside of the prison walls.
The court ruling has been hailed as a victory for justice, with St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner saying in a statement that “we celebrate with Mr. Johnson and his family as he walks out of the courtroom as a free man.”
Attorney General Andrew Bailey’s office released a statement defending the rule of law and asserting that they had worked to uphold the original verdict. The statement concluded that “the court has spoken, and no further action will be taken in this case.”
The ruling brings an end to Johnson’s decades-long fight to prove his innocence. But his case has now sparked debate over how those wrongfully convicted should be compensated. For now, Johnson is simply looking forward to his newfound freedom and the chance to start a new life.
0. “Lamar Johnson to be set free after decades in Missouri prison for murder he didn’t commit • Missouri” Missouri Independent, 14 Feb. 2023, https://missouriindependent.com/2023/02/14/lamar-johnson-to-be-set-free-after-decades-in-missouri-prison-for-murder-he-didnt-commit
1. “Judge vacates life sentence of Lamar Johnson after nearly 30 years behind bars” New York Daily News, 15 Feb. 2023, https://www.nydailynews.com/news/crime/ny-lamar-johnson-sentence-vacated-20230215-iw26k5zaqbcqrovedohhjcwim4-story.html
2. “Lamar Johnson decision happening today” KTVI Fox 2 St. Louis, 14 Feb. 2023, https://fox2now.com/news/missouri/lamar-johnson-decision-happening-today
3. “Lamar Johnson comes home after judge overturns 1995 murder conviction” KTVI Fox 2 St. Louis, 15 Feb. 2023, https://fox2now.com/news/missouri/lamar-johnson-comes-home-after-judge-overturned-1995-murder-conviction/
4. “After 27 Years in Prison, Missouri Man’s Murder Conviction Is Vacated” The New York Times, 16 Feb. 2023, https://www.nytimes.com/2023/02/15/us/johnson-wrongful-conviction-release.html
5. “Missouri man freed after serving 27 years in prison” WMUR Manchester, 15 Feb. 2023, https://www.wmur.com/article/missouri-man-lamar-johnson-freed-from-prison/42905301
6. “Lamar Johnson freed by judge after 28 years in prison | STLPR” St. Louis Public Radio, 15 Feb. 2023, https://news.stlpublicradio.org/government-politics-issues/2023-02-14/judge-rules-lamar-johnson-should-be-freed-after-nearly-30-years-in-prison-for-a-murder-he-didnt-commit