In 2014, we witnessed a record 125 exonerations. Yet this number doesn't even scratch the surface when it comes to how many wrongfully convicted prisoners are out there. Reuters reports that these exonerations occurred "in part because of efforts by prosecutors willing to admit their offices made mistakes," but as one of many innocent prisoners, I can only read that statement as a half-truth. I'm not saying that there aren't any honest prosecutors who truly seek justice -- I'm saying that exonerations themselves are an indication that prosecutors have already done everything under the sun to obtain and maintain false convictions. Whenever you see multiple "Integrity Units," at work in a prosecutor's office, remember that these units are there because of a lack of integrity among prior prosecutors.
I've had evidence supporting my innocence and corruption claims hidden from me and my lawyers by the district attorney's office for over eighteen years. This evidence includes the first eight pages of the police report filed the night of the crime for which I was convicted, which conflicts with witness testimony at trial. When the prosecution finally turned this report over, eighteen years late, my defense filed amendments to my pending appeal. With this uncovered evidence of my innocence, the prosecution could have done the right thing by releasing me or granting a new trial. Instead, they denied any wrongdoing, turning around and blaming me for not finding the evidence sooner -- evidence they'd hidden from me and my defense. So much for "integrity." Then again, they knew I was innocent for over eighteen years, so it's clear they were never seeking justice in my case, just seeking a conviction by any means necessary. I've been falsely and maliciously prosecuted from day one, when both the evidence and the law were on my side.
The only way to curb wrongful convictions is to hold the people behind them fully accountable. Personally, I feel that crooked police and prosecutors responsible for wrongful convictions should be charged with attempted murder (or in some cases, murder itself). One thing that can never be replaced is lost time. If we held the people handling criminal cases accountable for the lives that they have stolen, it would go a long way towards ensuring honest and fair proceedings going forward.
When I first started to speak out publicly about my nightmare, I was accused of "defaming" a career cop and prosecutor. Yet they are the ones who withheld key evidence for almost two decades and they are the ones continuing to fight my release tooth and nail -- even though they know I'm innocent. Where's the integrity?
I'm one of many prisoners who are completely innocent, but continue to suffer at the hands of prosecutors who represent anything but justice. We are not guilty, so we don't want sympathy. We demand justice from the legal system that has failed us. We call on that judicial system to right our wrongs. Instead of wrongful convictions declining, they are rising to record numbers. As one of many innocent prisoners, I'm asking society not only to pay attention, but to speak to the leaders you've voted into office about how they can curb wrongful convictions.
Lorenzo Johnson served 16 and a half years of a life-without-parole sentence, from 1995 to 2012, when the Third Circuit Federal Court of Appeals ruled there was legally insufficient evidence for his conviction. He remained free for 4 months, after which the US Supreme Court unanimously reinstated the conviction and ordered Lorenzo back to prison to resume the sentence. With the help of Michael Wiseman, Esq., The Jeffrey Deskovic Foundation for Justice, The Campaign to Free Lorenzo Johnson, and others, he is continuing to fight for his freedom. Sign his petition and learn more at: http://www.freelorenzojohnson.org/sign-the-petition.html. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter: @FreeRenz