A Missouri man who spent the last 27 years in prison for murder walked free on Tuesday (February 14) after a judge declared his innocence and vacated his conviction, per CNN.
Lamar Johnson was sentenced in 1995 to life in prison without parole in connection to the death of Markus Boyd. Police said Johnson and another man, Phillip Campbell, fatally shot Boyd.
Last year, St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kimberly Gardner filed a motion for a new hearing, arguing that Johnson's murder conviction was based on false eyewitness testimony and misconduct by investigators and prosecutors.
Johnson was granted the hearing, and on Tuesday, Missouri Circuit Court Judge David Mason said his initial trial included “constitutional error” as he vacated the murder conviction.
"There is clear and convincing evidence of Lamar Johnson’s actual innocence,” Mason ruled.
Gardner's request to vacate Johnson's conviction came after James Elking, the sole eyewitness of the initial trial, recanted. Another man, James Howard, also testified in December that he and Campbell, who has since died, shot Boyd over a drug dispute.
According to Mason's ruling, Johnson had an alibi on the night of Boyd's murder, and no physical evidence linked him to the killing.
Evidence presented in a December hearing showed that police interfered with Elking's identification of the shooter, with the witness saying he felt pressured to pick someone out of a line-up.
According to the Midwest Innocence Project, Johnson isn't eligible for compensation under state law despite his wrongful conviction. The organization started a GoFundMe page to support his life outside of prison, noting that Johnson “will enter the free world with no resources."
Johnson appeared teary-eyed in the courtroom on Tuesday as Mason announced his decision to vacate his conviction.
“This is an amazing day that we showed that the city of St. Louis and the state of Missouri is about justice and not defending the finality of a conviction,” Gardner said following the ruling.
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