Wrongful conviction overturned 48 years later in Florida

Willie Williams has been cleared of all charges related to a 1975 attempted murder after attorneys found a key witness only identified him after being hypnotized, the Innocence Project of Florida said.

Willie Williams has been cleared of all charges related to a 1975 attempted murder after attorneys found a key witness only identified him after being hypnotized, the Innocence Project of Florida said.

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Willie Williams served nearly 45 years in prison for a Florida shooting he didn’t commit, lawyers say.

Now, his conviction has been overturned.

Williams was sentenced to life in prison after a 1975 attempted murder and robbery of a Jacksonville produce store, the Innocence Project of Florida said in a release Jan. 3.

“It has been more than 48 years since I was originally arrested for this crime,” Williams said in the release. “I always knew that I was not the shooter but I didn’t have the evidence to properly defend myself.”

Prosecutors at the time relied on a key witness, who identified Williams as the shooter, the IPF said. But Williams’ counsel didn’t know the witness had forgotten Williams’ face and was only able to identify him after being hypnotized, IPF attorneys said.

Williams was released on parole in June 2020 after 44.5 years in prison, according to the IPF.

The State Attorney’s Office began a conviction integrity review in 2021 after Williams said he was wrongfully convicted. During the review, the office learned prosecutors failed to “disclose key evidence that would have undermined the victim’s identification — the only evidence against Williams at his trial,” attorneys with the IPF said.

IPF attorneys Brandon Scheck and Seth Miller took up Williams’ case after this information was discovered.

Other witnesses gave conflicting testimony, but the state relied on the hypnotized witness’s identification, the IPF said.

“The State’s case rested solely on this identification from one of the victims and in closing argument the State indicated to the jury that it should believe this identification because

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This Kansas City attorney never gave up hope for Lamar Johnson’s release | KCUR 89.3

Lamar Johnson wants to experience the joys of life — and its inconveniences.


“I want to hold a baby, and I want to stand in line and be frustrated because it’s not going fast enough,” Johnson said on Tuesday evening outside Maggie O’Brien’s restaurant near St. Louis Union Station. “All the things a lot of people may overlook and may be annoyed by, I want to experience.”

Johnson is now a free man after having spent 28 years in prison for a crime he did not commit. Circuit Judge David Mason ruled on Tuesday that there was clear and convincing evidence that Johnson did not murder a man named Marcus Boyd in 1995.

By Johnson’s side in the courtroom when Mason announced his decision was Lindsay Runnels, an attorney for the Kansas City-based law firm Morgan Pilate. Runnels has represented Johnson since 2015 and was among several attorneys who worked to secure his freedom.

“I can’t even describe how I feel about my attorneys, especially Lindsay Runnels,” Johnson said. “She’s been a sister and a friend. God sent me his best angel with her.”

For her part, Runnels feels relief.

“I have a lot of joy seeing him doing what he wants to do. But overwhelmingly, it’s a relief for me that this is over — finally, and the right result has happened,” Runnels explained on St. Louis on the Air.

Lamar Johnson celebrates being released from custody on  Tuesday, Feb. 14, 2023, at the Carnahan Courthouse — a part of Missouri’s 22nd Judicial Circuit — in downtown St. Louis. Johnson was released after being convicted and jailed for nearly 30 years for a murder he did not commit.

Brian Munoz

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St. Louis Public Radio

Lamar Johnson celebrates being released from custody on Tuesday, Feb. 14, 2023, at the Carnahan Courthouse — a part of Missouri’s 22nd Judicial Circuit — in downtown St. Louis. Johnson was released after being convicted and jailed for nearly 30 years for a murder he did not commit.

The Midwest Innocence Project began representing Lamar Johnson in 2009, but for

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Valena Beety, AB ’02, JD ’06: Helping the Wrongly Convicted with Her Law School Network

Valena Beety

Valena Beety, AB ’02, JD ’06

Two books out this year from Valena Beety, AB ’02, JD ’06, reflect the commitments that have guided her career for the last 13 years. She’s the author of Manifesting Justice: Wrongly Convicted Women Reclaim Their Rights, and the coeditor of The Wrongful Convictions Reader. Now deputy director of the Academy for Justice at Arizona State University’s Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law, she was a staff attorney at the Mississippi Innocence Project and the founding director of the West Virginia Innocence Project.

Joining the first of those projects, in Mississippi, marked a big career turn for her. “I came to the Law School knowing that I wanted to be a prosecutor,” she said. “I had served as an advocate for rape victims as an undergraduate, and I saw how violence impacts survivors. I thought prison was the answer, and that I could be a protector.”

When she joined the US Attorney’s office in the District of Columbia in 2008, it wasn’t like she had thought it would be. “I saw how often prosecutions failed to help victims, and how frequently they relied on false information, dishonest forensics, and police misconduct,” she recalled.

She left for Mississippi the next year to be a protector of a different kind, working at the innocence project there for almost three years before she was hired to create and direct the West Virginia Innocence Project at the West Virginia University College of Law. During her seven years there, she built a strong connection with UChicago Law, bringing on four graduates to work on the project through the Justice Franklin D. Cleckley Fellowship. “I feel so gratified by the work those graduates have done after their fellowships,” she said. “Two

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