The Slow Road to Correcting Wrongful Convictions
The Naked
Truth
by Jamala Rogers
Sadly, only about a half dozen states do NOT have an organization that addresses wrongful convictions. I say sadly because it speaks to the racist
corruption of the current judicial system. The National Registry of Wrongful Convictions tracks these cases and puts the number of exonerations to
date at over 2,500, totaling an estimated 22,000+ lost years of the exonerees. This is unconscionable.

One of the organizations I belong to works in the area of court reform and has been part of most of Missouri’s exonerations. While I was in Madison,
it was only natural that I checked out the Wisconsin Innocent Project (WIP) located on the campus of the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Under the
auspices of the Law School, WIP has changed the life trajectory of those innocent people facing years of false imprisonment. This is transformative
work indeed.

People not close to this work generally believe that those wrongfully convicted and imprisoned are the results of honest errors by the court system.
This couldn’t be further from the truth. Most of these poor souls are victims of prosecutorial crimes such as destroyed or withholding evidence, using
informants who give false testimony and intimidation of witnesses.

These practices are fueled by law and order demands and prosecutors racking up convictions by any means necessary. Truth, fact and justice have
little to do with the outcomes sought by the U.S. judicial system.  

To add insult to judicial injury, when the time comes to rectify these wrongs that have destroyed lives, the system goes into shut-down mode and
throws up barricades.  Prosecutors and the courts refuse to participate in expeditiously moving legitimate motions that lead to freedom of falsely
accused defendants.

It’s why the selection and election of reform prosecutors has been critical in turning off the spigot of cases tainted by racism and corruption. Many
have established Integrity Units to review cases deemed as wrongful. These prosecutors have met with resistance by police associations. That’s
because the first point of corruption is usually between police and the defendant. It’s where you get forced confessions, fake evidence, etc.
In St. Louis, Prosecutor Kim Gardner has refused to take warrants from these
kinds of rogue cops. Gardner was the first African American to be elected to this
seat in 2016. And she’s been catching hell ever since.

One of the current cases in Missouri that has received national attention is that
of Lamar Johnson.  Johnson has been caged as an innocent man for 25 years.
When Gardner’s Conviction Integrity Unit took a closer look at the case brought
to it by the Missouri Innocence Project, it uncovered all kinds of problems. The
case is a good example of the complicity between corrupt cops and
prosecutors.

In 1994, St. Louis prosecutors convicted Johnson of the murder based mainly
on the false testimony of a so-called eyewitness. That eyewitness, pressured
by the state, has since recanted and new evidence revealed that he was paid
by the state. To get a conviction, police and prosecutors had worked together to
make up evidence. The assistant prosecutor in this case was a former St.
Louis cop.

In response to Gardner’s righteous motion for a new trial, a circuit judge ruled
that the motion was too late. The deadline for such a motion was 15 days after
the guilty verdict. This is the extent to which the system protects itself and all its
wrong doings. It’s been further ruled that Gardner has no jurisdiction in the
matter.

The community’s thinking is that who cares about jurisdiction! All the relevant
offices need to work together to get Johnson out ASAP. With an expose’ of the
case’s injustices, this knit-picking only illuminates the serious flaws of the
system.

The Missouri Innocence Project has rallied other justice-seeking organizations
in the state who are committed to Johnson’s freedom. We won’t stop until
Johnson returns to the arms of his family and to the community.