Murder conviction was an injustice

Published 9:16 pm Saturday, August 13, 2011

To the editor:

After reading a recent letter to the editor, “Everything hidden shall be revealed,” I was inspired to write and say yes, it will be.

After extensive research into the great work being done by the Innocence Project, I have learned that wrongful conviction of innocent men is a reality of our system of “justice.”

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The statistics documented by the Innocence Project reveal the exoneration of 13 men from 1989 to 2011 in Virginia alone, with a combined total of 134 years of wrongful imprisonment.

This brings me to a jury’s conviction of Thomas Lee Johnson in 2004 for first-degree murder, robbery and conspiracy, even though he had no direct link to the deceased. Mr. Johnson was sentenced to 30 years in prison, though no forensic evidence placed him at the scene of the crime.

Testimony from a co-defendant and multiple jailhouse informants — all of whom were given plea agreements with reduced sentences for their testimony — was used to get the conviction.

There was also one supposedly impartial juror who attempted to give Mr. Johnson her Bible prior to deliberation, along with a note that read, “These words will set you free.” The juror also indicated that things did not look good for Mr. Johnson, as no one had spoken for him. Despite this behavior, the juror was allowed to remain seated and considered to be impartial.

This was all deemed more credible than the expert witnesses and the absence of fingerprints or DNA belonging to Mr. Johnson.

Was this justice or “just us”? Just us resolving a case, as opposed to solving a case. Mr. Johnson pleaded not guilty to these charges and has maintained his innocence during the seven years he has been incarcerated for this crime.

It’s time to unite with the Innocence Project’s work to stop wrongful convictions by refusing to allow inaccurate identification, false testimony and jailhouse re-entry into society, while innocent men exit society, while the true perpetrators remain free to commit repeat offenses.

Mr. Johnson, while maintaining his wrongful conviction, has not given up on his freedom. He is still confident that justice, and not “just us,” will prevail.

Tierra Johnson