We have a serious problem in this country when it comes to prosecutors who fail to serve the public. Prosecutors are very powerful and have vast resources at their disposal when seeking convictions. While some prosecutors do their job honestly and stand for justice, there are others who are responsible for intentionally wrongfully convicting innocent people. And as if that weren't enough, they do whatever is necessary to maintain these false convictions.
Last year, there were a record 125 exonerations of innocent prisoners. That number does not scratch the surface of the true number of innocent prisoners who are still in prison fighting to show and prove their innocence. I'm one of them. We are in a scary position, because in a lot of our cases, the same prosecutors who served us our injustice remain on our cases. Or new prosecutors have taken their place, only to turn a blind eye to what's happened and keep our nightmare going - for them, it's just another day at work.
I'm one of many innocent prisoners who can show blatant, continued prosecutorial misconduct. This misconduct led to me receiving a life sentence for a crime I never committed. I was released from prison in 2012 by the Third Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals, which stated that the evidence used to convict me was insufficient as a matter of law. This was not good enough for the prosecutor on my case, who filed an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court that led to my wrongful conviction being reinstated.
After a mere 148 days of being reunited with my family, I had to return to a life sentence that didn't belong to me. But I didn't stop fighting. My legal team reinvestigated my case from top to bottom. We found out that the prosecution actually knew that I was innocent from day one -- after 19 years, the prosecution turned over missing documents from my case discovery. None of my prior attorneys had ever seen them before. These documents confirmed that the prosecution knowingly and intentionally allowed perjured testimony from their chief witness, who, we also found out, had originally been a suspect in the murder herself. In his closing arguments to the jury, the prosecutor in my case said they had to believe this witness because she had no reason to lie. What he left out was to inform my defense and the jury -- this same witness was a suspect in this case.
My prosecutor, despite all these revelations of my innocence and a mountain of evidence of prosecutorial misconduct, continues to oppose my vindication or a new trial. To do that, he is not standing on his evidence anymore, or on my guilt. He's standing on procedural grounds, arguing that I filed my appeal late. Amazingly, my prosecutor is blaming me for not finding this new evidence sooner. But how could that be possible when he just turned this information over to my defense after 19 years? His argument is that his office had an "open file" policy with my trial attorney. However, I have signed statements from my original attorneys stating that they never saw these documents and that if they had, they would have used this information to impeach the prosecution's witness. Again, I'm just one of many innocent prisoners whose prosecutors are not concerned with justice. For them, it's all about maintaining our convictions.
As innocent prisoners, we are calling on the rest of society to be just as outraged as we are that this type of misconduct is so common in our judicial system. I'm speaking on facts that you can look up and verify for yourself. I'm one of the skeletons in the closet of prosecutors who have maliciously imprisoned an innocent man. Without attention and support from the public, this injustice will never stop. Every week, you see one of us on CNN. Take a look at Albert Woodfox's nightmare. After over forty years, a federal judge ordered his release. The prosecution in his case knows he's innocent, but continues to fight against his release. The victim's widow in Mr. Woodfox case also agrees that he's innocent and should be freed -- that kind of support from the victim's family is uncommon. But these prosecutors aren't interested in justice in our cases.
I commend Brooklyn's District Attorney, Kenneth Thompson, for the excellent job he has done by assisting in the exonerations that came from out of his office. We need more prosecutors like him who stand for justice. When has it ever been acceptable to kidnap someone from their loved ones and place them in a cage for nothing? The time we innocent prisoners spend behind bars varies; it can range from a day to our natural life. This is our reality when prosecutors ignore our innocence and deny us justice. My speaking out about the truth has made my prosecutor fight against me even harder. But what am I supposed to do -- just sit quietly in this cell and serve a life sentence when I'm innocent? You can bet I won't.
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 four 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. Email him or sign his petition and learn more at: http://www.freelorenzojohnson.org/sign-the-petition.html.