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After nearly 30 years in prison, man exonerated of murder charges in Missouri

A Missouri judge vacated the murder conviction on Tuesday of a man who had served nearly three decades of a life sentence and had long maintained his innocence.

Johnson was sentenced to life without the possibility of parole in 1995 after being convicted of murder in the death of Markus Boyd the year prior.

Police at the time said that Johnson and another man, Phillip Campbell, shot and killed Boyd.

However, Johnson was given a new hearing after St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kimberly Gardner filed a motion last year saying that his conviction was based in large part on false eyewitness testimony and accusing prosecutors and investigators of misconduct.

“I was elated when he read the words. I feel very blessed, and I am very blessed.”

Mr. Johnson said in an interview

During the five-day court hearing held in December 2022, James Howard, who was one of the two men accused of the murder alongside Johnson, testified that he and Campbell shot Boyd over a drug dispute, the judge’s order says.

Howard signed a sworn affidavit confessing to involvement in Boyd’s murder, while Campbell served less than six years for the killing, one of Johnson’s attorneys has said.

The hearing also revealed that the sole eyewitness at Johnson’s trial, James Elking, had recanted his testimony, and that prosecutors had withheld evidence that would have undermined Elking’s trial testimony.

Evidence presented during the hearing showed that police interfered with Elking’s initial identification, with Elking saying during the proceedings that he felt pressured to pick someone out of a lineup.

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Written by Jamil Johnson