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MO Innocence Claim Gets Prosecutor’s Strong Backing

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The new conviction integrity unit working for St. Louis’ reform-minded top prosecutor has weighed in on the side of a man challenging his murder conviction, calling the case a “perversion of justice,” the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports. The office of St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kimberly Gardner, who has clashed often with old-guard law enforcement advocates, filed a motion for a new trial for Lamar Allen Johnson on the grounds of actual innocence, and claiming the case was tainted by prosecutorial misconduct, perjury, hidden evidence and secret payments made by police to the key witness.

One of Johnson’s attorneys, Lindsay Runnels of Kansas City, believes it is the first time in Missouri that a prosecutor’s conviction integrity unit has asked for a new trial alleging a defendant’s innocence. Runnels and attorney Tricia Bushnell of the Midwest Innocence Project brought Johnson’s case to Gardner’s office and asked her to investigate it. The report of the Conviction Integrity Unit accuses multiple police officers of lying, and the assistant circuit attorney who prosecuted the case of hiding exculpatory evidence. That attorney, Dwight Warren, who no longer works for Gardner’s office, called Gardner’s motion “nonsense.” Johnson remains in jail, “hopeful,” Runnels says, that justice will finally be done in his case, nearly 25 years after he got arrested for a crime he and others claim he didn’t commit.

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