Richard Johnson

On August 8, 1991, Richard Johnson was charged with aggravated criminal sexual assault. He was convicted and sentenced to thirty years in the Illinois Department of Correction.

The victim, a graduate student at the University of Chicago, was raped and robbed on September 20, 1990. After the victim identified Johnson from police photos, he was featured on America’s Most Wanted. Johnson was eventually arrested in Florida and then identified by the victim in a line-up.

A pretrial analysis of the vaginal swab and panties of the victim immediately following the attack revealed the presence of H antigens, signifying that they originated from a person who is a secretor. Blood and saliva was then taken from both the victim and Johnson. Testing determined that neither person was in fact a secretor, and therefore Johnson could not have been the sole source of the body fluids recovered from the person or clothing of the victim. Johnson’s attorney, however, failed to use this evidence in the criminal trial.

Prior to the conviction, no DNA testing was performed on the evidence, Johnson, the victim, or the victim’s husband. In February, 1993, Johnson sent a letter to the Public Defender of Cook County complaining about the deficient legal representation he had received at trial. In this letter Johnson specifically mentioned the use of DNA testing in his case. Johnson then sought relief under the Post Conviction Hearing Act. He obtained access to DNA tests, which were paid for by Centurion Ministries, a New Jersey-based nonprofit that works to overturn wrongful convictions.

The DNA tests proved Johnson’s innocence. On March 8, 1996, Johnson’s conviction was vacated based on the DNA test results. He had spent fours years in prison for crimes he did not commit.

Time Served:

4 years

State: Illinois

Charge: Rape, Robbery

Conviction: Rape, Robbery

Sentence: 36 years

Incident Date: 09/20/1990

Conviction Date: 11/20/1992

Exoneration Date: 03/08/1996

Accused Pleaded Guilty: No

Contributing Causes of Conviction: Eyewitness Misidentification, Inadequate Defense

Death Penalty Case: No

Race of Exoneree: African American

Race of Victim: Caucasian

Status: Exonerated by DNA

Alternative Perpetrator Identified: No

Type of Crime: Sex Crimes

We've helped free more than 240 innocent people from prison. Support our work to strengthen and advance the innocence movement.