Messiah Johnson- Virginia- Convicted In 1998 (RELEASED) Jul 6, 2017 3:32:08 GMT -5
Post by Scumhunter on Jul 6, 2017 3:32:08 GMT -5
(Above photo credit: pilotonline.com via police)
Nineteen years into his 132-year robbery sentence, Messiah Johnson tried to convince a Norfolk judge on Tuesday that he’s innocent.
Johnson, who is represented by lawyers from the Innocence Project at the University of Virginia School of Law, was convicted of robbery, abduction and related gun charges, accused of sticking up a crowded Ghent beauty salon in December 1997.
But Johnson didn’t do it, and he has a compelling case, Innocence Project lawyer Jennifer Givens said in court. The real robber has confessed, Johnson had three alibi witnesses who swore he was with them at the time of the robbery, and Norfolk police used “incredibly suggestive” identification techniques, which led witnesses to wrongly finger Johnson for the crimes.
But Tuesday’s hearing didn’t get that far. Circuit Judge Junius Fulton III said state law didn’t give him the power to rule on Johnson’s motion. He granted a motion from Assistant Attorney General Aaron Campbell to kill it.
Johnson’s relatives said they were disappointed but vowed to keep fighting. Givens said she may appeal Fulton’s ruling or take the case to federal court, where there’s a clear path to getting an innocence hearing.
“It’s unjust and immoral,” stepbrother Tomas Johnson said. “We’re going to keep up the fight.”
In December 1997, two black men wearing disguises and armed with guns went into Reca’s Beauty Salon in Ghent, Johnson’s lawyers said. They forced employees and customers to lie face down while they stole their wallets, jewelry and purses. They fired a shot to force a patron to come out of the bathroom, but no one was hurt.
Police came but took no notes or statements, the lawyers said. They told the patrons they had just joined a long list of victims of the “Ghent Robbers,” men who ended up committing more than 14 robberies in the neighborhood in two months.
Two weeks after the robbery, Johnson was walking to a club on Granby Street around 9 p.m. when the owner of Reca’s spotted him in the parking lot. He went back to the salon and told his co-worker he had just seen the man who robbed them.
Police found Johnson, handcuffed him and his friend and sat them on a curb.
They then drove the two witnesses past Johnson to see whether he was the guy, which Innocence Project lawyers called “incredibly suggestive.”
The witnesses said yes.
Johnson has been locked up ever since. He’s missed his daughter’s birth, watching her grow up and seeing her go to college.
Two days after his arrest, police caught Robert Humphries and charged him with more than a dozen armed robberies over two months. But he wasn’t charged with the salon robbery. Police and prosecutors pushed ahead with their case against Johnson.
Prosecutors offered Johnson a deal: Plead guilty, and serve three years, Innocence Project lawyers said.
Johnson turned it down. He hadn’t committed the crime, so why would he say he had?
Jurors convicted him and recommended he serve 132 years in prison.
But some have had second thoughts. Jean Norton was one of two jurors who wrote to Fulton, who was also the trial judge in the case, asking him to suspend part of the jury’s recommended sentence.
Norton told The Pilot in 1999 that her stomach knotted up when, after finding Johnson guilty, she heard the minimum sentence she could recommend was 92 years.
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Thoughts? It does seem more prolonged legal battles on the way based on the latest court ruling. Now I am in no way excusing it but even if Johnson was guilty it is a bit much to serve 132 years for a single robbery (it was only the hair salon robbery Johnson was convicted) where no one was hurt or killed when we have seen guys actually kill people and get 10 years.
And I hate to say it- but this is in my opinion is yet amother example of flaws in the justice system where minorities get excessive sentences compared to their white counterparts who are often convicted of the exact same crime.
I realize these are different decades and crimes and not entirely the best comparison but let's take for example, the case we recently updated on our forum involving Gavin Smith, the former Fox executive killed by John Creech, a white alleged drug dealer. Creech admitted to killing Smith in the heat of an argument over an affair involving his wife, not providing medical aid to Smith after he was injured and helping to bury his body. Creech was convicted of manslaughter a few days ago and faces a sentence of UP TO 11 years!
Now I realize these are different times/cases once again but what kind of a world are we living in where a guy gets 132 years for being a named participant in one robbery where no one was hurt while a guy who injures someone badly, doesn't help them as that person dies and then buries their body might serve under 11 years.
The disparity in sentencing is something even white Republican Senator Rand Paul from Kentucky and African-American Democratic Senator Cory Booker from New Jersey- two men who could not be more polar opposites of each other- have discussed working on.
In the meantime, Johnson's family and the Virginia Innocence Project have vowed to continue to fight to prove Johnson's innocence. My feeling is whether he can prove his innocence or not, 132 years is completely excessive in this case and definitely needs to be reduced if nothing else.