ST. LOUIS (KMOV.com) – A St. Louis man who has spent 25 years in prison for a murder he said he didn’t commit – a murder St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner says he didn’t commit - still has a tough road ahead.
A new court filing by Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt aims to legally block efforts to free Lamar Johnson.
Earlier this summer Gardner’s office requested a new trial for Johnson. According to a report from Gardner's office, police pressured the only eyewitness to identify Johnson in a lineup, even though the two shooters wore masks that covered most of their faces. The witness took back his identification in a 2003 letter to a pastor.
In late August of this year, a St. Louis judge denied Johnson’s legal team’s request for a new trial. Circuit Judge Elizabeth Hogan ruled that the court had no authority to grant a new trial because the motion was "filed approximately twenty-four years" after the mandated deadline of 15 days after the verdict.
Gardner attempted to appeal the decision to the Appellate court, but Schmitt’s office says she does not have legal standing in the case, saying, her “efforts to represent the State of Missouri in this appeal are contrary to long-standing Missouri law… By statue, the AG is the designated representative of the State of Missouri in cases pending in this court.”
Johnson was convicted in 1995 and sentenced to life in prison without possibility of parole for the death of Marcus Boyd. Police and St. Louis prosecutors at the time alleged that he and co-defendant Phillip Campbell fatally shot Boyd over a fight about drug dealing. Campbell and another man who confessed to his role in the slaying, James Howard, have since signed sworn affidavits stating that Johnson was not involved.
Johnson told KMOV affiliate KCTV that he expects to remain in jail through another holiday season, despite the confessions of others for the crime.
“I have to believe god has another plan for me … he’s got to have a different purpose than for me to die here,” Johnson said. “And I believe eventually the right thing will be done. I have to believe that.”
In response to the Attorney General, advocates delivered a petition with 25,000 signatures calling for Johnson's release