A man is suing the Baltimore Police Department for allegedly altering a witness' testimony and withholding evidence in order to convict him for a murder he did not commit. He spent the next three decades in jail before finally being set free.
What's the background?
Jerome Johnson was arrested in October 1988 and convicted of murder. He spent most of the next 30 years in prison before being exonerated in July 2018. The Mid-Atlantic Innocence Project worked with the Baltimore City State's Attorney's Office to prove both that Johnson had multiple witnesses who could provide an alibi and that a witness who had testified she saw Johnson commit the crime had been mistaken. The entire conviction had rested on the testimony of this single eyewitness.
He was just 20 years old when he was convicted. Throughout his time in prison, he always insisted that he was innocent.
What does the lawsuit say?
Now he's suing the Baltimore Police Department and four homicide detectives who had been involved in his case, alleging that police suppressed evidence that would have cleared his name during his trial.
According to the lawsuit, before the eyewitness had testified that Johnson had committed the murder, that same witness gave an earlier statement that proved his innocence. The initial police report contained this statement.
The lawsuit then claims that police got the witness to change her story in order to convict Johnson. It also alleges that the police department purposely kept the jury from seeing the witness's initial statement.
"The result of them hiding it was that he was convicted and spent 30 years in prison for a crime he did not commit," his lawyers said, according to WJZ-TV. "Time in which he wasn't there to watch his daughter grow up, watch his parents pass away."