Missouri judge denies petition for new trial after prosecutors say man is innocent

A Missouri judge cited filing deadlines when she said it will not allow a new trial for a man prosecutors say has wrongfully been imprisoned for nearly a quarter-century, according to The Washington Post.

St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner moved for a new trial for Lamar Johnson, who was sentenced to life without possibility of parole on murder charges in 1995, a conviction Gardner’s office said was secured through fabricated evidence and bribing an eyewitness who recanted his testimony, according to the Post.

ADVERTISEMENT

Johnson gave an alibi for the 1995 shooting of 25-year-old Marcus Boyd, and prosecutors acknowledged he was socializing with friends at an apartment at the time of the shooting but argued he traveled three miles to Boyd’s front porch, shot him and returned in under five minutes.

The office also invented testimony from four people that was cited as evidence of Johnson’s motive, according the attorney’s office’s Conviction Integrity Unit. All four people told investigators they never gave detectives the statement in question, according to the Post.

However, Circuit Judge Elizabeth B. Hogan ruled Friday that under court rules, Johnson was required to file a motion for a new trial within 15 days of his initial conviction.

Johnson’s lawyer, Lindsay Runnels, told the Post that she plans to appeal the order along with the Midwest Innocence Project and that the ruling ignores previous cases in which the 15-day window was waived due to extraordinary circumstances. Gardners’s office will also appeal.

“On so many levels, it’s a real interesting decision,” Runnels told the newspaper. “There’s not a single word in it about Lamar Johnson’s innocence or the claims of his innocence. This is what we should expect prosecutors to do in the face of injustice.”

“Instead, [the judge] is telling Lamar Johnson there’s no remedy for him in this court. I don’t think that can be the state of the law,” she added.

Hogan said she consulted with the state attorney general’s office, which told her Gardner’s office does not have the authority to ask for a new trial.

She also consulted as to whether Gardner accusing her own office’s prosecutors of misconduct constitutes a conflict of interest, which, in an amicus brief, more than 40 prosecutors argued contradicted a prosecutor’s ethical duty to remedy wrongful convictions.

“As a duly elected minister of justice, a prosecutor’s obligation to correct a known injustice never terminates,” they wrote. “And because that obligation never terminates, neither does the prosecutor’s right to pursue an appropriate remedy in court, as the Circuit Attorney has done here.”