| || |
Rickey Johnson freed in Louisiana after a
quarter-century in prison
Innocence Project client Rickey Johnson was freed
this morning in northwest Louisiana after serving
half his life in prison for a rape he didn’t commit.
DNA testing on evidence from the crime proved
Johnson’s innocence and matched another man,
who is serving life in prison for a rape committed
in the same apartment complex as the crime for
which Johnson was convicted. Johnson is the
10th person to be exonerated by DNA testing
in Louisiana and the 211th nationwide.
Johnson, who was 26 when he was arrested and is now 52,
was embraced by more than 30 family members after a judge
fully cleared him at a hearing this morning. He had three
young children when he was arrested, and a fourth was
born shortly after he was incarcerated; all of those
children are now adults, and he has grandchildren
he’s never met. (Above: Johnson with his sister,
left, and his niece, right. Shreveport Times
photo by Vickie Welborn)
Johnson was wrongfully convicted in 1983 after
the victim misidentified him in a deeply flawed
photo lineup consisting of an eight-year-old photo
of Johnson and just two other photos. Misidentifications
— often due to suggestive lineups or procedures —
were involved in more than 75 percent of the
wrongful convictions overturned by DNA testing.
Since his wrongful conviction, Johnson has been
at Louisiana’s massive state penitentiary at Angola.
He is free today because prosecutors in Sabine Parish
where he was convicted cooperated with the Innocence
Project in locating the evidence and seeking DNA testing.
Other Innocence Project clients remain in prison, seeking
DNA testing that could prove their innocence.
East Baton Rouge District Attorney Doug Moreau
has fought DNA testing in several cases for years.
Tomorrow, Johnson will join other Louisiana
exonerees at a press conference to call for statewide
access to DNA testing and preservation of evidence.
Also tomorrow, Johnson will meet with the family of
Archie Williams, an Innocence Project client in East Baton
Rouge who has sought DNA testing for 13 years.
Johnson, Williams’ family and Innocence Project
Co-Director Barry Scheck will call on Moreau to
end years of unnecessary litigation and finally consent
to DNA testing in cases where it can prove guilt or innocence.