News 02.05.08

Mississippi man could be free in three weeks

Arthur Johnson has been in prison for 16 years for a rape he’s always maintained he didn’t commit. After years of waiting for his day in court, and additional delays caused by Hurricane Katrina, Johnson’s lawyers at

Innocence Project New Orleans

obtained DNA testing on his behalf in November. The DNA tests, on semen from the victim’s clothing, point to another man – and show that Johnson is innocent.

Johnson’s lawyers at IPNO, a member of the

Innocence Network

, have asked for his conviction to be overturned based on the new DNA results. A judge will review the new evidence at a hearing in Sunflower County, Mississippi, on February 25, and Johnson could be set free, or at least granted a new trial. If the charges are dropped, he would be fully exonerated.

As the Arthur Johnson case works its way through the state's courts, it is drawing attention to a justice system that has not yet caught up with DNA technology – and, advocates for reform say, it is pointing out the need for new legislation on evidence preservation and access to DNA testing.

… Mississippi is one of only eight states without a law providing for access to DNA testing for prisoners with claims of innocence.

Nor does Mississippi have a law requiring evidence to be preserved for future testing.


Read more about Johnson’s case here

. (Delta Democrat Times, 02/04/08)

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