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‘You can hide the truth, but eventually it’s going to find a way’; Lamar Johnson hopeful for Monday’s hearing

By Angie Ricono

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    ST. LOUIS (KMOV) — Lamar Johnson is confident about his upcoming Monday hearing, which might be surprising. He’s spent 28 years in prison for a St. Louis murder he swears he didn’t do.

This time his faith is in God.

“I mean, I believe in God. I believe that he had a purpose for me other than to spend the rest of my life in prison,” said Johnson.

He quotes scripture Numbers 32:23: “Be sure your sins will find you out.”

“I think you can lie, you can deny, you can hide the truth, but eventually it’s going to find a way…. I’m comforted in that,” said Johnson.

He says he believes any impartial judge will be able to see his innocence. He recently agreed to a limited interview with News 4.

He calmly speaks about the years he’s spent in prison, his hope for the future, and his ailing mother. He dreams of eating a Steak ‘n Shake omelet with pepper jack cheese.

His voice cracks and tears roll down his face when he talks about the pivotal moment an innocence investigator agreed to look at his case more than a decade ago. The investigator told Johnson he would first try to prove him guilty because when they couldn’t prove that, they could prove his innocence.

“I always get emotional when I talk about this. Because I knew that if a person went in like that. Once they were convinced that they would fight for me,” said Johnson.

Johnson said he just didn’t know the fight would take so long.

Case history

Johnson was largely convicted on eyewitness testimony, despite the gunman wearing a full ski mask in the dark. He’s lawyers point out the eyewitness was paid $4,000 for his testimony and recently admitted in a letter that he was pressured and coerced by police and prosecutors.

Johnson’s legal team argues the real killer escaped punishment and the family of the murder victim, Marcus Boyd, never received true justice. Legal motions reveal two other men publicly acknowledge their role in the murder and clear Lamar Johnson.

Johnson celebrated his 49th birthday while being transferred from Jefferson City Correctional Center to the St. Louis County Jail. He comments on the gray in his beard and getting older.

Legal Challenge

The case is finally before a judge due to a new Missouri law that allows prosecutors to bring cases before a judge when they believe an injustice has taken place. But the legal process is still an uphill battle.

St. Louis is still working on Lamar Johnson’s c

ase, their first, while Philadelphia has freed 25 people. Their conviction integrity units started roughly at the same time.

Only one person has been freed in the state, Kevin Strickland. He spent 43 years in prison; he received no compensation when he was released.

The Jackson County Prosecutor, who used the same path St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner’s office is now using, wrote about her legal fight in an opinion piece for the Washington Post. She details a legally combative process, casting blame on the Missouri Attorney General’s Office. Her point is clear: it shouldn’t be this hard to free an innocent person.

Johnson seems to agree but is careful with his words. He recently became aware of a motion claiming there’s gunshot residue on a jacket found in the trunk of his car four days after the murder. Johnson says it’s not his jacket. Kim Gardner’s office points out that the jacket is bright red. Eyewitnesses describe the two assailants as wearing all black. Her motion argues the jacket has nothing to do with the case and the Missouri Attorney General’s Office knows it.

“I think a lot of politics was involved in this case, a lot of pushback. I don’t think it was even about me. I think it’s about bigger things. But it still doesn’t change the fact that I’m affected by it. You know?” explains Johnson.

Johnson said he has faith in something stronger than the justice system- the truth.

“This is just a moment I’ve always been waiting for. And I’ve been fighting for over 28 years. And so, I’m really ready to be able to present this case, present the evidence, and I expect it to turn out right,” he said.

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