Toforest Johnson, who has been on Alabama’s death row since 1998 for a crime he likely didn’t commit, is asking the state Supreme Court for a new trial. His lawyers asked the Court to review a lower court decision denying Johnson a new trial in a filing last Friday, the Washington Post reports.
Johnson was sentenced to death for killing Birmingham deputy sheriff William G. Hardy, who was working as an off-duty security guard at a hotel, in 1995. But despite substantial new evidence that Johnson is innocent and that the district attorney and the lead prosecutor in his case support a new trial, state officials have defended his conviction, and Johnson is still on death row.
In his op-ed in the Montgomery-Advertiser, “Why Is Toforest Johnson Still on Alabama’s Death Row?” former Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court Drayton Nabers, Jr., wrote, “Supporting the death penalty shouldn’t mean ignoring signs that a person on death row may have been wrongfully convicted. In fact, it should mean the opposite. If we’re going to use the power of the state to execute someone, we should do everything possible to make sure that the person had a fair trial and that the evidence proves his guilt.” Other supporters who support a new trial include the district attorney in the county where Johnson was convicted, former Alabama Attorney General Bill Baxley, and several former judges and prosecutors, according to the Post.
The key prosecution witness in Johnson’s capital trial testified that she overheard a man she identified as Johnson admitting to killing Hardy. The prosecution paid that woman $5,000 for her testimony, a motive Johnson’s lawyers argue was not disclosed.