Innocent Prisoners: Against All Odds

A new year has arrived, and in the hearts and minds of innocent prisoners, as we await court dates, there is hope that this will be our last year trapped inside a nightmare. Some pray that we will come across the evidence needed to show our innocence, while a lot us already have the evidence needed to prove our innocence, but we lack the support of attorneys needed to overturn our wrongful convictions.

While witnessing the nearly 2000 exonerations that have taken place since 1989, many of us hold on to the hope that we might be next–so we keep fighting. But many of us quit, overwhelmed by the unlimited resources used against us and by the corruption we’ve faced.

Innocent prisoners are tremendously overlooked by our criminal justice system as well as by defense attorneys. Our judges and attorneys were oblivious to the corruption that led to our arrest, conviction, and sentencing. Fortunately, thanks to the recent explosion of exonerations and the outlets that help educate the public, our stories are being told more and more.

Politicians often run on the platform that they will be the toughest on crime–especially on violent crimes. On behalf of the many innocent people in prison, I ask: why are the crimes that have been committed against us continually being swept under the rug of injustice? Keep in mind that the average exoneree spends between thirteen-and-a-half and fifteen years in prison before being released. Our false sentences are mostly life imprisonment or the death penalty. Is this not a crime?

Change and reform are needed in our criminal justice system. But after countless years of exonerations, are the well known tactics responsible for wrongful convictions going to be acknowledged and dealt with? How can society ever have faith in a system that will not come clean about the epidemic of wrongdoing that has shattered so many innocent lives?

It’s evident that lives mean absolutely nothing to those prosecutors who neglect their duty to seek justice. Even with evidence to show our innocence, they still fight to maintain our false convictions by utilizing their endless resources to make sure our convictions are maintained. They know that by doing this, they ensure that most of us will die in prison. For many of us who are not exonerated, that’s our fate.

Lorenzo Johnson served 16 and a half years of a life-without-parole sentence until 2012, when the Third Circuit Federal Court of Appeals ruled there was legally insufficient evidence for his conviction. He remained free for four months, after which the US Supreme Court unanimously reinstated the conviction and ordered him back to prison to resume the sentence. With the support of The Pennsylvania Innocence Project, he is continuing to fight for his freedom. Though he does not have internet access himself, you can email his campaign, make a donation, or sign his petition and learn more at: http://www.freelorenzojohnson.org/sign-the-petition.html.

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