Rickey Johnson, Exonerated Today after 26 Years, Presses for DNA Testing for Other People Trying To Prove Their Innocence
Johnson joins the family of Archie Williams, who has sought DNA testing in Baton Rouge for 13 years, in asking Doug Moreau to drop appeals and allow DNA tests
(BATON ROUGE, LA; January 14, 2008) – Rickey Johnson, who was released in Sabine Parish this morning after being incarcerated for nearly 26 years for a rape that DNA now proves he did not commit, will spend his first full day of freedom in Baton Rouge tomorrow – asking elected officials to ensure that other prisoners have access to the same DNA testing that exonerated him.
Johnson will speak at a press conference Tuesday at the Baton Rouge Bar Association (544 Main Street) at 1 p.m. Johnson and his family (some of whom he met for the first time today) will talk about his quarter-century struggle to clear his name. He will be joined by the family of Archie Williams, who has been fighting for 13 years for DNA testing that could prove Williams’ innocence. Innocence Project Co-Director Barry Scheck will speak at the press conference about the duty of elected officials to make sure evidence is preserved and DNA testing is available post-conviction, and Baton Rouge attorney Jim Boren will discuss effort to improve eyewitness identification procedures.
Archie Williams’ family, Rickey Johnson and other people exonerated through DNA testing in Louisiana will also speak directly with legislators tomorrow about the need for strong statewide policies to preserve crime scene evidence and allow for post-conviction DNA testing. The state’s law granting post-conviction DNA testing is set to expire later this year, and stronger laws are needed to require the proper collection, preservation and storage of evidence after people are convicted, according to the Innocence Project. Williams’ family, Johnson and Scheck are requesting a meeting after the press conference with East Baton Rouge District Attorney Doug Moreau to directly ask him to allow DNA testing in Williams’ case.
“Rickey Johnson is free today because he happened to come from a Parish with a District Attorney who fulfilled his legal and moral obligation to allow DNA testing. People in East Baton Rouge are not so lucky. Rickey left Archie Williams behind at Angola, where he continues waiting for the DNA tests that can prove his innocence or confirm his guilt,” Scheck said. “Rickey Johnson wants to look Doug Moreau in the eye and share his profound personal experience with DNA testing. We will ask Mr. Moreau to immediately drop his state Supreme Court appeal and consent to DNA testing in Archie Williams’ case.”
Johnson met and worked with Archie Williams while at Angola over the last couple of decades. The two men talked about their cases and their efforts to get DNA testing that could prove their innocence. Another man who served time at Angola, Calvin Willis, was exonerated through DNA in 2003 – and urged Johnson to contact the Innocence Project about his case several years ago.
“Rickey Johnson’s case has come full circle. Just as a friend of his at Angola helped him find us so that we could prove his innocence, Rickey is now helping Archie Williams get the DNA testing that might finally exonerate him,” Scheck said. “All of these are rape cases where the victim did not know her attacker; they are the clearest cases for DNA to prove guilt or innocence.”
Shortly after a woman was raped in Many, Louisiana, in July 1982, Johnson was arrested. He was convicted several months later and sentenced to life without parole. The victim identified Johnson in a photo array which included a seven-year-old photo of Johnson and just two other photos of local men. “The identification procedure in Rickey Johnson’s case is a textbook example of what not to do. The victim should have shown more pictures, Rickey’s photo should have been recent, and the ‘filler’ photos in the array should not have been local men in a small town where the victim may have known them,” Scheck said. Johnson was 26 when he was arrested, and he is 52 today.
Archie Williams was convicted of a Baton Rouge rape in 1983, the same year Johnson was convicted of the unrelated crime in Sabine Parish. For 13 years, Williams has been seeking DNA testing that could prove his innocence – but Moreau has opposed all of his efforts. Williams has filed 10 motions in state and federal court seeking testing, and Moreau has fought each one in court. Even after the Louisiana Legislature passed a law in 2001 explicitly granting access to post-conviction DNA testing, Moreau blocked Williams from having DNA tests conducted. Moreau has also blocked DNA testing in other pending cases in Baton Rouge.
In August, a state appeals court finally ordered DNA testing in Williams’ case – but Moreau appealed that ruling to the Louisiana Supreme Court, which has not yet decided whether to hear the case or let the appeals court ruling stand so DNA testing can be conducted.
“The longer Archie Williams waits to get DNA testing in his case, the higher the chance that the evidence will be degraded and will not yield a result,” Scheck said. “It is also possible that DNA testing could lead to the true perpetrator of the crime, just as it did in Rickey Johnson’s case and several other cases in Louisiana. Justice, public safety and the integrity of the state’s criminal justice system all demand that evidence be properly preserved and people have access to post-conviction DNA testing.”
Johnson is the 10th person in Louisiana exonerated through DNA testing. In six of the 10 cases, DNA also helped identify the true perpetrators of crimes for which innocent people were wrongfully convicted. As in Johnson’s case, the true perpetrators had sometimes gone on to commit additional crimes after an innocent person was wrongfully convicted for the initial crime.
Read more on Rickey Johnson’s case.
Read more on Archie Williams’ case.
Read more on the 10 people exonerated through DNA in Louisiana.