Exonerated man fulfills dream of walking daughter down the aisle
▶ Watch Video: Sneak peek: Lamar Johnson: Standing in Truth
Kiera Barrow was just 5-months-old when her father Lamar Johnson was locked up for a crime he didn’t commit. After a nearly three-decade legal battle Johnson was exonerated. He walked out of a St. Louis, Missouri, courthouse as a free man on Feb. 14, 2023, Valentine’s Day.
Johnson’s exoneration came at a very meaningful time for his youngest daughter.
“I’m getting married in April of this year,” Barrow told “48 Hours” correspondent Erin Moriarty through tears. “It would just mean so much to me … for him to be able to give me away.”
Barrow got her wish. On April 21, 2023, a beautiful spring day, Johnson walked his daughter down the aisle.
Barrow said she always knew her father was innocent. In 1995, he was convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole for the shooting of his friend, Markus Boyd. Johnson was just 21 years old at the time. Boyd, 25, had been shot to death by two gunmen on his St. Louis porch on Oct. 30, 1994.
Johnson had an alibi: his girlfriend at the time, and Kiera’s mother, Erika Barrow. She told investigators he was with her the entire night of the shooting, except for five minutes, not long enough even to have traveled to the crime scene, about three miles away.
Law enforcement never spoke with Erika Barrow. But they did question an eyewitness, Greg Elking, who said two men had attacked the victim. Elking later picked Johnson out of a lineup, and his testimony was largely responsible for Johnson’s conviction in 1995.
Elking later recanted, and after Johnson’s conviction, two other men confessed to the crime. Despite all this, decades passed and Johnson remained behind bars.
“The problem is, I don’t know what else to do,” Johnson told Moriarty during a 2021 prison interview. “I mean, what else is needed?”
Moriarty has been following Johnson’s story for several years. She reports on the case in “Lamar Johnson: Standing in Truth,” an all-new “48 Hours” airing Saturday, April 29, at 10/9c on CBS, and streaming on Paramount +.
In his first and only television interview, Elking tells his story. Elking was with Boyd the night he died. They were sitting together on Boyd’s porch, when Elking says two masked men, with only their eyes visible, suddenly flew up the steps and shot his friend.
“It was the most horrifying thing I ever seen in my life,” he told Moriarty. “The third shot, I kind of seen Markus’ soul just go.”
Elking said he only got a look at one of the attackers, and even so, he could only see his eyes because of the mask. When police brought Elking in for questioning, he was shown a lineup three times that included Lamar Johnson, and did not identify him.
Yet, he finally said he was able to identify him, and testified about it at Johnson’s trial in 1995. At the time, Elking claimed he could identify Johnson only by the look of his eyes.
“You didn’t know at all, did you?” Moriarty asked Elking.
“I didn’t know,” Elking replied.
Elking alleged that he felt pressured by detectives to make an identification. He said, at first, he refused. However, he said investigators told him that his own life was in danger. They told him that Johnson was a violent man who may have been involved in as many as six other murders, Elking said. These claims have never been substantiated, and Johnson has never been charged with any other murder.
The lead detective on the case, Joseph Nickerson, has denied under oath that he pressured Elking into identifying Johnson.
“I lied on the testimony,” Elking told Moriarty. “I lied because I thought I was doing the right thing.”
“48 Hours” also spoke with the prosecutor who decided to put Elking on the stand. Dwight Warren was a St. Louis circuit attorney in 1995.
He told Moriarty: “I believed Mr. Elking, because I looked him straight in the eye and said, ‘I want to know if he did it, tell me you’re sure of your identification. Please tell me the truth, because I don’t want to go and charge somebody who’s not guilty.'”
When Moriarty asked what Elking replied, Warren explained: “Well, quote end quote, I couldn’t tell you, but he told me he was telling the truth that he, he knew who did the shooting.”
Warren continued: “I presented the evidence that I had, and a jury convicted him.”
Nearly three decades after that conviction, Johnson was finally granted an innocence hearing. Elking took the stand in a St. Louis courtroom in December 2022, facing Johnson for the first time since his trial all those years ago.
Elking testified that he lied under oath and couldn’t identify Johnson. A man from Boyd’s neighborhood, James “B.A.” Howard, took the stand and testified that he and a friend were the real killers. Two months later, Missouri Circuit Court Judge David Mason exonerated Johnson, and he walked out of the courtroom a free man that day.
Now, Kiera Barrow will finally get to enjoy her father-daughter relationship in a whole new way — in person.
“He’s a really good man,” Barrow told Moriarty.
Despite her father being sent away before Barrow could even walk, the two formed a special bond while he was in prison.
“I think that, just despite everything that he has experienced, who he is and who he shows up as, it is just — it’s remarkable,” she said.
The day after his release, Johnson told Moriarty that he considers himself a blessed man.
“It was like a weight had just come off of me,” Johnson said. “Just the vindication, just that somebody had finally heard me.”