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  September 20, 2017

Yet Another Black Man Serves Time for a Crime He Didn't Commit

Lamar Johnson was released after serving fourteen years for murder after the Innocence Project teamed with Baltimore Prosecutor Marilyn Mosby's office to win his release
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Taya Graham: This is Taya Graham reporting for The Real News Network in Baltimore City, Maryland. Finally, justice has been served. A young man named Lamar Johnson has finally been released from jail after 14 years in prison for a crime he didn't commit.

Speaker 2: The scene outside the Mitchell Courthouse in Baltimore was emotional, if not tragically familiar.

Lamar Johnson: I'm just so blessed right now, and ... It's a wonderful feeling.

Speaker 4: How'd you do it? You never gave up hope.

Lamar Johnson: It was, at times ... Sometimes I got frustrated because every appeal I filed I was getting shot down and I was like, "Man, they really trying to kill me in prison for something I ain't do, right?"

Speaker 2: An African-American man was released from jail after spending years in prison for a murder he didn't commit. His name is Lamar Johnson. In 2004, he was charged and later convicted in the shooting death of Carlos Sawyer based on the testimony of two teen witnesses.

Throughout his ordeal Johnson said he didn't do it, and seven years ago, DC-based Innocence Project took up his case.

Speaker 5: It was clear from looking at Lamar's questionnaire that he was not the perpetrator. Based on the witness that Ms. Mosby mentioned, who provided a motive for somebody else to have killed him and who provided the information that somebody else had been in an argument immediately before the shooting.

Speaker 2: They found new witnesses who said he wasn't the shooter and convinced the Conviction Integrity Unit for the Office of the State's Attorney to review it.

Speaker 6: The shooter's nickname was given to police by members of the community within hours of the murder and from that information, the investigation centered on determining who that nickname belonged to. Unfortunately, Lamar Johnson was misidentified as a person who went by that nickname and as a result became the suspect and was ultimately indicted.

At trial, there was no physical evidence to connect Mr. Johnson to the crime. However, the evidence which suggested that Mr. Johnson was the shooter was the extrajudicial identifications of two teenage women. Witness One stated that she could not see the shooter's face, did not get a clear view of the shooting, fled the scene immediately after hearing the gunshots and was not wearing the glasses she needed for seeing distances.

Speaker 2: So today, 14 years after sent to jail, he emerged a free, if not changed, man.

Lamar Johnson: Prison, I mean, some people belong in there, right? But I was treated like an animal in there. I was treated like an animal in there. It's rough in there. It's rough.

Speaker 2: This is not the first time The Real News has been on hand for the release of someone wrongfully convicted. Earlier this year, 31-year-old Ivan Potts was set free after judges overturned his conviction for possession of a gun. Potts was arrested by the infamous Gun Trace Task Force, eight officers who have been indicted for robbing civilians and dealing drugs. Like Johnson, Potts says the cruelty of the Maryland prison system is unfathomable and life-altering.

Ivan Potts: So, they put me on administrative segregation, which is segregation. You confined, you only get one hour of rec a day, and you're locked in a cell for 23 hour out of a day. The same thing Kalief Browder was in. You saw it, you know what I mean. You know when I say I almost lost my mind because I was behind the door, going back and forth to court and my case keep getting postponed because the officer's not showing up.

Speaker 2: Which is why the Innocence Project told us they were working on dozens of cases.

Speaker 5: It's not everyday that somebody who's convicted of murder is on the same side as the State's Attorney's Office and it's a special situation.

Speaker 4: Any more cases in Baltimore that you're dealing with?

Speaker 5: I hope so. Stay tuned.

Speaker 4: Stay tuned.

Speaker 2: To give people like Johnson and his family a rare commodity in Baltimore: hope.

Speaker 8: It was just overwhelming. I couldn't hold back the tears when they...that. Finally, that long wait has finally paid off.

Speaker 2: This is Taya Graham and Stephen Janis reporting for the Real News Network in Baltimore City, Maryland.


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