A Baltimore man, who spent nearly 3 decades behind bars for a murder he did not commit, is now suing the police department, as well as four homicide detectives within the department for allegedly withholding evidence that would have proved his innocence.
“He’s trying to put his life back together,” the lawyers of Jerome Johnson said, according to CBS Baltimore. “We’re looking for some compensation for the 30 years that those officers took.”
Johnson was only 20 years old when he was arrested and charged in October 1988 for a murder that he has always insisted he was never a part of. He would only be fully exonerated decades later in July 2018, following a re-investigation by the Conviction Integrity Unit of the Baltimore City State’s Attorney’s Office.
Johnson is the second longest-serving exoneree in Maryland’s history, his lawyers claimed, after spending 10,886 days in prison. Days where he could not watch his daughter grow up, or be there for his parents’ passing.
The lawsuit accuses four homicide detectives who were investigating the murder of concealing an initial statement from the State’s star witness. The statement, which was taken minutes after the murder, confirmed Johnson’s innocence.
“It’s evidence that has existed literally from the night of the murder. There was a police report that said who was involved and did not involve Mr. Johnson and then the police hid that report and more than 20 years later, Mr. Johnson found that in his probation file,” Johnson’s lawyer, Andrew Freeman, said.
The lawsuit claims that detectives pressured the witness to change her story, which detectives then falsified in police reports and knowingly gave incorrect information to the jury and judge at the trial in order to ensure Johnson’s conviction.
“I spent so much of my life in prison for something I didn’t do,” Johnson said. “We can’t go back and change the past, but I hope that there is justice at the end of this road.”