After spending nearly three decades behind bars, Jerome Johnson has filed a federal lawsuit against the Baltimore Police Department (BPD). He is accusing BPD and four homicide detectives of intentionally withholding evidence that could have exonerated him in a 1988 murder.
According to CBS WJZ, Johnson was only 20 when he was arrested and charged with murder in July 1988. The network claims a state's witness, a 15-year-old girl, denied Johnson’s involvement in a statement given to police minutes after the murder occurred.
Johnson’s federal lawsuit accuses the detective of coercing the girl into changing her statement before taking the stand. The jury in Johnson's trial was never informed of the witness's original statement to police. The witness provided false testimony, and Johnson was subsequently found guilty.
Andrew Freeman, Johnson’s lawyer, discussed the devastating effects of his client's incarceration. “The result of them hiding it [evidence] was that he was convicted and spent 30 years in prison for a crime he did not commit. Time in which he wasn’t there to watch his daughter grow up, watch his parents pass away."
Freeman also explained how Johnson discovered the witness’s original statement. “It's evidence that's 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,” he told the network.
A reinvestigation into Johnson’s case by the Conviction Integrity Unit of the Baltimore State’s Attorney’s Office led to his exoneration in 2018.
Johnson spent 10,866 days behind bars, making him the second-longest-serving exoneree in Maryland history, reports CBS WJZ.
Despite being incarcerated for nearly 30 years, Johnson is reportedly looking forward to the future. "I spent so much of my life in prison for something I didn’t do," he said. "We can’t go back and change the past, but I hope that there is justice at the end of this road.”