Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Innocent Man Goes Home for First Time Since 1993

February 25, 2008

by Ronni Mott

Jackson Free Press-Jackson, Mississippi

INDIANOLA—Arthur Johnson, 48, who was wrongfully convicted in 1993 of rape, went home with his family today for the first time in a decade and a half. Sunflower County Circuit Judge Ashley Hines of Sunflower County still levied $25,000 in bail, even though DNA testing carried out in 2007 proves Johnson did not commit the crime. Johnson has already served 15 years of the 55-year rape and burglary sentence at Parchman, however.

Emily Maw, director of the Innocence Project’s New Orleans office and Johnson’s attorney, attempted to get Johnson’s bail lowered so that his family could afford to pay it. A $25,000 bail, coupled with DNA evidence proving his innocence, amounted to an “effective denial of bail,” Maw said. Hines, who seemed to pay little to no attention to Maw’s pleas, was unmoved, never looking at her while she was speaking.

Ole Miss law professor George Cochran, a board member of the Innocence Project, posted the $2,500 cash bond allowing Johnson to go home to his family instead of spending another night behind bars. Maw negotiated with the court behind closed doors to ensure Johnson’s release.

Sunflower County will retry Johnson in July. Although District Attorney Dewayne Richardson would not comment on what other evidence he might present at that time, the likelihood is that the victim’s identification will come into play.

Mistaken eye-witness testimony has been a factor in 77 percent of exonerations handled nationwide by the Innocence Project. No physical evidence linked Johnson to the crime for which he was convicted, and he had no prior violent criminal history.

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