The Case of Lorenzo Johnson

In the early morning on December 15, 1995, Tarajay Williams was murdered by shotgun blast to the chest in an alley in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. Initially, Lorenzo Johnson was accused only of allegedly being near the alley where the murder took place. However, he was soon found guilty of first-degree murder at the age of 22. Johnson was convicted and sentenced to mandatory life imprisonment on the murder conviction, and concurrent five to ten years on a conspiracy conviction.
 
After years of appeals, the court found an absence of evidence, meaning that Johnson’s guilty verdicts were based on the jury’s speculative assumptions and unreasonable inferences, which “is Constitutionally insufficient to support a conviction.” Despite opposition from the PA Attorney General, there was a district court hearing on Johnson’s request to be released, and on January 28, 2012, Lorenzo Johnson was a free man. However, one month later, the PA AG filed a petition to overturn the appeals court’s decision. In March, the Supreme Court reversed this decision and reinstated Johnson’s convictions.  Johnson, who had corresponded towards the tale end of his incarceration with The Foundation, was assisted by the Foundation in reintegrating back into society: being provided with emergency funding; taken clothes shopping; regular contact which he found stabilizing in a new world; advice dealing with the after-effects of wrongful incarceration, and camaraderie. The Foundation even found him a full time job that he was scheduled to begin the day the court reinstated his conviction. During his four months of freedom, he obtained a drivers license, an inexpensive car, rebuilt relations with his extended family, found a stable job, was a speaker at a variety of events, and met his fiancée.
 
On June 14, 2012, Lorenzo Johnson surrendered himself and was re-incarcerated. Jeffrey Deskovic drove Johnson back to prison, and The Foundation has provided unwavering support to Johnson throughout his fight for justice, mainly assisting him with the P.R. aspects of his case-keeping his case in the public eye, renting buses for rallies in Pennsylvania, connecting him with additional people to help him with various tasks which he can’t do for himself, coordinating with his team, providing a life line to him for the outside via phone calls and visits, as well as monthly funds. 
 
After Johnson’s reincarceration, his team began investigating the police and prosecutorial misconduct that led to his wrongful conviction, uncovering voluminous evidence of his innocence. Johnson filed a Post-Conviction Relief Act in 2013 along with various supplemental filings based upon newly discovered evidence of his innocence.

After Johnson’s reincarceration, his team began investigating the police and prosecutorial misconduct that led to his wrongful conviction, uncovering voluminous evidence of his innocence. Johnson filed a Post-Conviction Relief Act in 2013 along with various supplemental filings based upon newly discovered evidence of his innocence. 

On Tuesday, July 11, 2017, after 22 years in prison, Johnson was offered a "nolo contentre" plea deal by the state of Pennsylvania that would free him without requiring an admission of guilt, a bitter pill that Johnson felt he had to swallow for the sake of his family. He was immediately freed and reunited with his family, with whom he now lives in New York.

 

References

I Just Walked Free after 22 Years in Prison for a Crime I Didn’t Commit, I Still Want Justice, August 3, 2017, Huffington Post

'I had to end their pain:' Lorenzo Johnson says he took plea deal for his family, Tuesday, July 11, 2017, Pennsylvania Real Time News

A Matter of Innocence Debated, Thursday, May 31, 2012, Times Union

U.S. Supreme Court Reinstates Lorenzo Johnson’s Convictions Even Though He May Be Innocent, Sunday, June 3rd, 2012, Justice Denied

Lorenzo Johnson Back In Custody After U.S. Supreme Court Reinstates His Murder Conviction, Friday, June 15th, 2012, Justice Denied

Campaign to free Lorenzo Johnson delivers over 1,000 petition signatures demanding PA General dismiss the charges, Tuesday, December 24th, 2013, Abolitionist Law Center

New York Exoneree Lends Support to Pennsylvania Inmate, Thursday, December 19th, 2013, Innocence Project

 

YouTube

Jeffrey Deskovic Talks at the Foundation's Lorenzo Johnson Press Conference, News 12

Fox 43 Covers The Foundations Rally for Lorenzo Johnson, Fox 43

Jeff and Other Supporters Hold Another Rally For Lorenzo Johnson, Fox 43

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