Criminal Justice

Police Faked Evidence and the Real Killers Confessed. But Missouri Still Imprisoned an Innocent Man for 24 Years.

Lamar Johnson is finally getting a new trial.

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The St. Louis Circuit Attorney's Office will give a new trial to Lamar Johnson, who was convicted of capital murder in 1995 after the lead detective falsified witness statements and bribed a man to identify Johnson as the killer.

For Johnson to have been guilty, he would have had to leave an apartment party, travel three miles, kill the victim, and return on foot to the same party within a matter of five minutes. St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner has now filed a 67-page motion to vacate the conviction. It and an accompanying investigative report say that Johnson was only convicted after police and prosecutors relied on "perjured testimony, suppression of exculpatory and material impeachment evidence of secret payments to the sole eyewitness, and undisclosed Brady material related to a jailhouse informant with a history of incentivized cooperation with the State."

Joseph Nickerson, the lead detective at the time, was found to have fabricated parts of his investigation, including falsifying four witness statements and bribing a man $4,000 to identify Johnson as the shooter at trial. Johnson continued to sit in prison even after the actual killers confessed to their crime, and absolved Johnson of any involvement, in 1996 and 2002.

The Midwest Innocence Project (MIP), which has long represented Johnson, praised Gardner in a press release for filing a motion for a new trial. "We don't expect prosecutors or law enforcement officers to be perfect—but we should expect that once overwhelming evidence of innocence and government misconduct come to light, that prosecutors fulfill their duty to administer justice by correcting those injustices," said MIP attorney Lindsay Runnels.

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  1. A new trial, after all that evidence of perjury? Why not just move for a finding of innocence?

    And is anything going to happen to the perjuring prosecutor, like spend the rest of his life in prison?

    Guess I already know all those answers.

    1. And the lying witness?
      And the other cops who ignored or abetted the falsification of records?
      And everyone who didn’t do anything for 15 years after the real killers confessed??!!!
      I have checked, and Amazon does sell both pitchforks and torches – – – – –

    2. I’m guessing higher political office.

    3. Judges, prosecutors and cops all enjoy “qualified immunity”. They can’t be prosecuted for malfeasance or any other law.

    4. I believe generally when someone makes a false accusation knowiing that it’s false, they should get the maximum punishment that the accused could have gotten had the accusation been true.
      So if a cop pays someone to provide false testimony in a murder case, and the possible range of sentences is 10 years to life, the cop gets an automatic life sentence. No parole.
      Same with things like false rape complaints. Research indicates that about half of all rape complaints are false. If the penalty is 5 to 50 years, every person making a false complaint would get 50 years.
      A prosecutor who withhold exculpatory evidence should be punished the same way. They get the maximum sentence the accused could have received.
      Even if the sentencing guidelines are 5-10 for a first offense, if the maximum possible sentence is life in prison – that’s what they should get.

    5. You can never properly compensate anyone for such an injustice but part of it has to be a proper and severe punishment for the prosecutor.

  2. “We don’t expect prosecutors or law enforcement officers to be perfect—but we should expect that once overwhelming evidence of innocence and government misconduct come to light, that prosecutors fulfill their duty to administer justice by correcting those injustices,”

    While we’re wishing for things, I’d like a pony made of diamonds.

    1. Please check out the democratic party “debates”* this week. They will be promising a whole stable of ponies; gold, silver, platinum, and yes, diamond.

      * aka joint press briefing hosted by fawning publicity seeking sycophant

      1. “a whole stable of ponies”

        And in the end, we the people will be left sorting through a million tons of horse manure thinking “with all this manure, there has to be a pony in here somewhere.

  3. Police Officer and Prosecutor should both finish out the rest of his sentence.

    1. The police officer and the prosecutor SHOULD be suspended head down in a lake of flaming monkey vomit. I’ll SETTLE for them finishing out this man’s sentence.

    2. No, they should each serve the full sentence that he was originally convicted of. They should get no break for the time they successfully covered up their crimes.

      Or CSP’s idea. Though I’m not sure how you’d get it to stay lit.

  4. Absolutely Disgusting.

  5. What’s the right penalty for stealing 24 years of a man’s life?

    How about paying for it with the last 24 years of the lives of the bastards who put an innocent man in jail?

    Barr is bringing back the death penalty. Too bad it can’t be used on the crooked cop and the prosecutor.

  6. I’d hate to be Detective Joseph Nickerson right about now.

    1. Why? Nothing will happen to him.

  7. We don’t expect prosecutors or law enforcement officers to be perfect

    What about not criminals? Can we expect prosecutors and law enforcement officers to be not criminals?

    Before we talk about not expecting these people to be perfect, we should at least recognize that the bar that they failed to clear was the “don’t be criminal” bar.

    1. Honest seems to be a bridge too far.

  8. If the police faked the evidence, and the real killer confessed, then why does this poor guy need a new trial?
    Why not just release him?
    Oh, wait.
    That’s right.
    Lawyers wouldn’t get rich off an innocent person.
    My bad.

  9. Actually, I do expect perfection from officers and prosecutors. When they fail, they should be imprisoned and sued into poverty.

    1. But they won’t. Which is why some people cheer when a cop stops a bullet.

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