Rickey Johnson and Calvin Willis met in Louisiana’s notorious Angola prison in the 1980s and quickly became friends. Although they didn’t discuss their cases in prison, the two men were both fighting to overturn their wrongful convictions. Willis learned about the Innocence Project and contacted us seeking assistance. When he found out that Rickey was also seeking DNA testing, he shared the Innocence Project’s address with him.
In the early 1990s, they were moved to different sections of the 5,000-inmate prison and they lost touch. In 2003, Rickey heard that Calvin had been exonerated, but he wasn’t able to say goodbye. Rickey waited for his own exoneration until 2008, when DNA test results proved his innocence of the rape for which he was serving a life sentence. He had served 25 years before his release in January. Today he says he wouldn’t be free if it weren’t for Calvin.
The two friends were finally reunited at the Innocence Network Conference in March. Watch a new video of the men’s emotional reunion, and listen as Calvin describes the moment shackles were removed from his hands and feet.
“It felt like my hands just rose up,” Calvin says.
“I know the feeling,” Rickey responds. “I know the feeling.”