Man wrongly convicted of Inglewood murder freed after 38 years by DNA evidence – news
A criminal has been freed from prison after DNA evidence cleared him of the murder of a teenage girl in Inglewood.
Michael Thomas Johnson, 40, was found guilty of first-degree murder, kidnapping, rape and sodomy in 1991 against Laya Smith in the city’s El Sereno Park.
But after police found a latent palm print of Johnson in a pool of blood on Smith’s bed, they were confident he was not the killer.
A Los Angeles Superior Court jury in February 1995 found Johnson innocent and he was granted a retrial in 1996.
During the retrial, which began on Monday, Smith’s sister testified that Johnson told her he murdered her.
She also testified that police officers found a bloody towel on her clothes that was similar to the type used in the murder.
According to court documents, on the morning of May 2, 1991, Smith was attacked by Johnson, also known as “Michael Thomas Johnson,” and three other men in front of her apartment.
Her body was found later that day in a vacant lot with her chest ripped open, her face badly beaten and her neck slashed.
In his first trial, Johnson was convicted on charges of murder and kidnap in the first degree.
After jurors were unable to reach an unanimous verdict on the question of voluntary manslaughter, a mistrial was declared and Johnson was retried on three counts of murder in the first degree.
The case was sent back to the jury and it delivered a verdict: guilty.
Johnson was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole, which was upheld by the state Appeal Court in April of last year.
Following the reversal, Johnson began a hunger strike in protest of the “inhuman and unjust” decision of the court, Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Richard L. Markowitz, and the Los Angeles Times reported.
He was found dead on Monday in his prison cell at San Quentin State Prison.
Johnson’s attorneys said his death is the result of a heart attack.
After Johnson’s death, the judge declared a mistrial on the