Wednesday, January 16, 2008

DNA frees man to test system, again

Leesville's Rickey Johnson is a free man, wrongly convicted of rape in 1983. Some conflicting evidence at the time might have raised issues, but it took DNA and more than 25 years for Johnson to find true freedom after a miscarriage of justice.

In a January 15 Times story, Johnson said, "I can never get back what I lost and I'm not going to try. I'm just going to focus on the future." Concerned about whether he could get a driver's license, he did that first.

But he should get some compensation, a nest egg, thanks to legislation passed in 2005. When the euphoria of the moment passes, this is money he will need and should pursue.

When Shreveport Mayor Cedric Glover was a legislator, he stood before a large group gathered
at the Tuesday Morning Breakfast Group at the now-closed Pete Harris Cafe touting cases of other wrongly convicted people. His inspiring message alongside the testimony of people like Calvin Willis, wrongly convicted of rape and freed on DNA evidence after 21 years in jail, helped gain support for a bill that offers some compensation for the state's error.

Willis still hasn't received any money for his unjust incarceration. Will Johnson get the $150K he is due given his now-clean slate? Will the system fail again?

Photo by Vickie Welborn/The Times:
Rickey Johnson wipes tears from his eyes while holding onto a sister after reading a judge's order that formally declares him free of the aggravated rape charge of which he was wrongly convicted in January 1983. Johnson, 52, of Leesville, was freed Monday after more than 25 years of wrongful incarceration.

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