DOWNTOWN – Circuit Attorney Kimberly Gardner is pressing her case for a new trial for a man she says was wrongly convicted in a 1994 slaying in St. Louis.
St. Louis Circuit Court Judge Elizabeth Hogan held a hearing Thursday on Gardner’s request in the case of Lamar Johnson. Johnson was sentenced to life without parole for first-degree murder and armed criminal action in the case in 1995.
But in a news conference outside her office after the hearing, Gardner said evidence now showed that Johnson was innocent.
“He went to prison for murder, and we’re asking for a motion for a new trial based on prosecutorial misconduct,” Gardner said. “This man lost 25 years of his life.”
The motion for a new trial said that after Johnson was sentenced for killing Marcus Boyd, two other men, Phillip Campbell and James Howard, confessed to killing Boyd.
Gardner also said that there had been perjured testimony and secret payments to the sole witness.
According to the motion, on the night of Oct. 30, 1994, Boyd was sitting on the porch of his home in the 3900 block of Louisiana Avenue in Dutchtown, when two black men wearing ski masks – Campbell and Howard – ran up along the side of the building and shot Boyd.
Gardner said a special unit designed to investigate cases of prosecutorial cases of misconduct had been involved in the case. She said she had a prosecutorial obligation to correct wrongs when she saw them. “We believe by the evidence this person should be exonerated. Let’s do the right thing.”
Also, Gardner said that no one who now worked for the Circuit Attorney’s office had been involved in the case. To the best of her knowledge, no police officers who worked on the case now work for the police department.
Johnson’s attorney, Lindsay Runnels, said her client was hopeful about the case.
“Identification was always compromised in this case. The assailants work full black masks,” Runnels said. “The eyewitness continually said he didn’t know the assailant and did not recognize him. Identification was already presented to the jury under those already-compromised circumstances.”
Also, Runnels said, “Subsequent investigation by the attorney general’s office found a number of pages of documents relating to payments to the eyewitnesses totaling more than $4,000. In case law, that is something that should have been disclosed, because it creates biases.”
Runnels said the procedure of getting a new trial was complicated after conviction. Often, especially in Johnson’s case, the convicts don’t have attorneys.
“Trying to raise these issues from inside custody, with no time, no money, no investigation on the outside is often a losing battle,” she said.