Lamar Johnson: Where is the Wrongfully Convicted Now?

Image Credit: 48 Hours

CBS’ ’48 Hours: Lamar Johnson: Standing in Truth’ walks us through Lamar Johnson’s journey from being falsely imprisoned for the murder of Markus Boyd to getting fully exonerated decades later. It showcases the details of his struggle to prove his innocence and throws light on his insistence that the officials did not hear his side of the story. Moreover, it features opinions of various other individuals related to the case, including James Gregory “Greg” Elking, who opens up about his false testimony which served as one of the reasons Lamar got falsely convicted.

Lamar Johnson Spent Nearly 30 Years in Prison for a Crime He Didn’t Commit

Born in the first half of the 1970s, Lamar Johnson was raised in St. Louis, Missouri. In his late teens, he seemingly formed a deep connection with Erica Barrow and the two began dating. By the time he was 20 years old, they welcomed two daughters into the world — Brittany Johnson and Kiera Barrow. He aimed to be the best version of himself for his daughters and become the man he needed to be for that, making him a devoted father. A student of St. Louis Community College, Lamar was also working at Jiffy Lube at the time. However, on the side, he was known to sell drugs to get some extra cash and support his family.

Image Credit: 48 Hours

When his long-time friend Markus Boyd was murdered on the front porch of his own house, all fingers were pointed in the direction of Lamar. In his defense, he claimed that he had been visiting a friend’s place, which was quite a few miles away from Markus’ house, along with his girlfriend Erika Barrow and their 5-month-old daughter at the time. As per Erika’s claims, he left the house when she was changing their daughter’s diaper and came back in merely five minutes, as soon as she was finishing up the process of diaper changing. A few minutes later, he received the news that Markus was shot.

Even after becoming a primary suspect, Lamar agreed to fully cooperate with the authorities and even agreed to do a photo lineup. But things only got worse for him after that as Greg identified his eyes and found them similar to the killer’s, even though he later claimed that he was coerced into making that statement. After a couple of incriminating testimonies from Greg and Markus’ girlfriend, Lamar got arrested alongside his friend Philip Campbell while they were driving towards the latter’s house. In his trial for the murder of Markus, Lamar did not take the stand but Erika testified that her partner could not have committed the gruesome crime as they were together at the time of the murder.

Unfortunately, the jury came back with a guilty verdict for Lamar and convicted him of all the charges against him. During this time, he and Philip had been exchanging some letters, in which the latter admitted that Lamar was not involved in the killing of Markus. One of the letters also mentioned the name of the other individual — James BA Howard — who accompanied Philip on the fateful night. When these pieces of evidence surfaced, Lamar requested a new hearing only to be denied by the court. Around the same time, a jail informant named William Mock testified that he had heard Lamar and Philip discuss the murder of Markus Boyd. The jury went with the claims of the prosecutors and handed him a life imprisonment sentence without any possibility of parole.

Several years down the line, the Midwest Innocence Project went over Lamar’s case and found out that in 2003, Greg, who was behind bars for bank robbery, had admitted that he lied at Lamar’s trial in a letter he wrote to a clergyman. In the same letter, Greg also talked about how law enforcement put him in the witness protection program and paid his debts, cleared out the traffic warrants against his name, and received over $4,000 in payment. Despite these developments, the case went cold.

Lamar Johnson is Now Seeking Accountability For His Lost Time

More than two decades after Lamar’s conviction, in 2018, St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kimberly Gardner went through his case and noticed quite a few causes of concerns that needed revisiting. For instance, the jury did not know that the jail informant William was a racist who hated black people and had a lengthy criminal record. She also emphasized the fact that Lamar had requested the court for hearings on several occasions to shed more light on the new pieces of evidence only to be denied. Now with the support of Kimberly and the Midwest Innocence Project, Lamar was hopeful that he might finally get his request permitted. But still, nothing worked out in his favor.

In a positive turn of events, in 2021, a law was passed that granted Kimberly enough power to revisit cases of innocence and bring them to the court. Then, in 2022, after 28 long years in prison, Lamar was told that he had gotten the chance to present new evidence to a judge. On December 12, 2022, the much-awaited trial of Lamar Johnson began. Convict, James Howard, serving a life sentence for unrelated charges was called as the first witness, who testified that he was one of the two men involved in the shooting of Markus Boyd in 1994. Next up, Greg admitted that he was in a way pressurized by the leading detective of the case when it came to identifying Lamar in the lineup.

This time, Lamar finally got the chance to take the stand and defend himself in front of the court. He admitted that he voluntarily agreed to participate in the lineup because he knew he did not have anything to do with it. Two months after the hearing, Lamar and the others were called to the courtroom for the judge’s decision. Finally, Lamar’s innocence was proven as his conviction was overturned and he was fully exonerated. Now a free man, Lamar, in January 2024, launched a federal lawsuit against the city of St. Louis and eight officers alleging they framed him for a crime he did not commit.

Looking for an undisclosed monetary amount as compensation, Lamar said in a statement: “I am grateful to be free and I’m doing my best to make up for all the time that was stolen from me and my family, especially my daughters. I want to put this dark and painful chapter behind me, but there can be no healing without answers and accountability. I deserved better and so did Markus. I intend to make sure this doesn’t happen to anyone else.” In a statement, one of his attorneys, Emma Freudenberger, expressed that the wrongful conviction turned his whole life upside down.

She added, “The defendant officers framed a young man with his life ahead of him. Even after the Court declared his innocence, there have been no apologies and no consequences. The City of St. Louis cannot continue to simply ignore the glaring police misconduct that has caused Mr. Johnson and his family so much harm.” As of writing, there have been no updates from the end of the St. Louis police. Since his exoneration, Lamar Johnson has been trying to move on from the ordeal and put his life back in order, piece by piece. On April 21, 2023, the father of two glowed when he walked his youngest daughter, Kiera Barrow, down the aisle.

Read More: Markus Boyd: How Did He Die? Who Killed Him?