Time Served: 15 Years
Arthur Johnson spent 16 years in prison for a rape he did not commit. He was convicted solely based on the victim’s eyewitness testimony, in spite of several alibi witnesses and a complete lack of physical evidence.
Early on the morning of July 9, 1992, a young woman in Sunflower County, Mississippi, awoke to find a burglar in her family’s home. He had crawled through a bathroom window. He attacked the woman in her bed, raping her at gunpoint.
The victim was taken to South Sunflower County Hospital for a medical examination. During the examination, she told a doctor that she was attacked by only one man, and that she had not had sex in the 72 hours prior to her attack. The doctor collected biological samples; however, there was not enough semen to test for the rapist’s blood type—the standard procedure at the time.
It was at the hospital that she gave a statement in which she said that her attacker might have been a man she knew as “Boo Rabbit.” Later that day, a police officer arrived at her home with Arthur “Boo Rabbit” Johnson in custody; the victim identified him as the rapist. Johnson, 33, a father of five, was charged with burglary and sexual assault.
In October 1993, Johnson went on trial. The victim testified, identifying him as her attacker. Johnson testified on his own behalf, maintaining his innocence. The defense provided a number of alibi witnesses, stating that Johnson was visiting them at home at the time of the crime. No biological evidence linked Johnson to the crime.
Nevertheless, on October 15, 1993, after a two-day trial, the jury found Johnson guilty and sentenced him to 55 years in prison.
In 2005, Innocence Project New Orleans succeeded in obtaining the physical evidence from Johnson’s case and submitted it for DNA testing. In 2007, Johnson was definitively excluded as the source of the semen from the victim’s underwear. When the DNA was run through the CODIS databank, it matched to a man with a criminal history of burglaries and attempted rapes. On February 22, 2008, the Sunflower County Circuit Court vacated Johnson’s conviction and ordered a new trial.
Johnson was released three days later, after 16 years in prison. The state eventually dismissed all charges on October 1, 2008. Johnson would later receive $500,000 in compensation for his wrongful conviction.
Charge: Burglary, Rape
Conviction: Burglary, Rape
Sentence: 55 Years
Incident Date: 07/09/92
Conviction Date: 10/15/93
Exoneration Date: 10/01/08
Served: 15 Years
Race of Defendant: African American
Race of Victim: African American
Status: Exonerated by DNA
Contributing Causes of Conviction: Eyewitness Misidentification
Innocence Project Involved: No
Death Penalty Case: no
Accused Plead Guilty: No
Type of Crime: Sex Crimes
Compensation: State Statute
The Alternative Perpetrator Identified: Yes
Real Perpetrator Convicted of Subsequent Crime: Yes