For the past 20 years, two innocent Black man have been in prison for a murder they didn’t commit. This week Justly Johnson and Kendrick Scott finally were able to walk free after all charges were dismissed against them.
“I haven’t lived for 20 years,” Johnson told Fox2Detroit.
“I haven’t smiled or relaxed for 20 years and I want to be able to do that.”
“I knew I didn’t do anything and when you are falsely accused of a crime all you can do is hope and you know it’s going to come one day,” Scott added.
Both men were wrongfully imprisoned back in 1999, when two eye witnesses pinned them as suspects who caused the death of 35-year-old Lisa Kindred. Kindred was shot and killed while sitting in her van with her kids near a gas station while waiting for her husband to come out of his in-law’s house.
“It’s a blessing because we never lied on each other like the other people lied on us to get us in jail,” Scott said. “We stayed strong and now we are out together at the same time. It’s a blessing.”
“We were in separate prisons but we were on the same journey which was to attain our freedom and prove our innocence,” Johnson added.
Some seven years ago, the Michigan Innocence Clinic picked up the case, and discovered that Kindred’s son was never questioned by police. Her son confirmed that the two men who were convicted for his mother’s death did not do it.
“It’s a disturbing case, a very tragic case,” Imran Syed, assistant director of the Michigan Innocence Clinic, told the news site. “And the pressures to solve it and the pressure to solve it leads to miscarriages of justice like this one.”
In the end, the original witnesses ended up recanting the testimony. The Supreme Court overturned the mens’ convictions and requested a new trial, but during a pretrial conference on Wednesday, the case against the men was ultimately tossed.
“We all arrived in court not knowing what would happen and I give the prosecutor a lot of credit for making this decision,” Syed said. “I know there are a lot of factors involved and it’s never easy.”
The men are eligible to collect $50,000 for each year they were wrongful imprisoned for the murder, and are now looking forward to enjoying their new-found freedom.
“To be honest with you, I just want to live and enjoy life. Breathe,” Johnson said. “At the end of the day. That is it.”