After spending 26 years in prison for a rape he didn’t commit, a Louisiana man was cleared of all charges this week.
“Rickey Johnson lost more than a quarter of a century, nearly his entire adult life, to a wrongful conviction. He had three young children when he was arrested, and a fourth was born shortly after he was incarcerated; all of those children are now adults, and he has grandchildren he’s never met,” said Vanessa Potkin, the Innocence Project Staff Attorney representing Johnson. “Rickey Johnson’s long nightmare will be in vain if we don’t learn from it and make sure other people in Louisiana have access to DNA testing that can prove their innocence.”
The victim of the crime reported that the perpetrator broke into her home and remained for several hours, during which she was raped. Despite her lengthy exposure to her assailant, the victim incorrectly selected Mr. Johnson from a “deeply flawed” photo lineup constructed by the police. The real perpetrator went on to rape another woman in the same apartment complex while Mr. Johnson sat in prison.
“If police and prosecutors had not focused on Rickey Johnson so early in their investigation – and if a proper eyewitness identification procedure had been used instead of a deeply flawed photo lineup – the real perpetrator might have been brought to justice sooner and might not have been free to rape another woman in the same apartment complex,” Potkin said. “Anyone who doubts that our criminal justice system is stronger when we take steps to prevent wrongful convictions should take a close look at Rickey Johnson’s case.”
The list of the wrongfully convicted — and unnecessary victims — resulting from the simple failure on the part of investigating police to conduct a reliable lineup procedure, is becoming unwieldy.