Wrongfully convicted man held for 28 years opens up about adjusting to life outside prison
▶ Watch Video: Lamar Johnson on fight for freedom and exoneration
Lamar Johnson was arrested in 1994 for the killing of his friend, Markus Boyd. He spent nearly three decades in prison after a witness picked him out of a police lineup. The witness, Greg Elking, says he was pressured by law enforcement to identify Johnson as one of two men who killed Boyd.
After a decades-long fight to prove his innocence, Johnson’s murder conviction was finally overturned by a St. Louis judge in February — a moment of “relief” for Johnson.
“I felt like 28 years of the struggle was finally being lifted,” Johnson told “CBS Mornings” on Thursday.
Johnson is now adjusting to his new life. He said one of the most difficult aspects after being released from prison is technology. When he was first imprisoned, people were using pagers.
“Now you all have cell phones and — Siri, all you have to do is ask her what you want,” said Johnson, who was wearing an Apple Watch.
“I didn’t think that I would want all this stuff, but then I found that it’s useful,” he said.
Johnson also talked about the difficulties of adjusting to the choices of everyday life.
“When you’re inside, you get what you get,” he said. “Like, on Mondays you’re going to have hamburgers, on Wednesday you’ll have such and such. So, I find myself — when I go to restaurants and have this long list, it’s like kind of hard” to decide.
Johnson was able to walk his daughter, Kyra, down the aisle last month after missing out on much of her life.
“I was just grateful to be able to be there and walk her down the aisle,” he said.
The key to Johnson’s wrongful conviction was the testimony of Elking, who acknowledged in an interview with CBS News’ Erin Moriarty that he lied in testimony and felt pressured to identify Johnson.
Johnson expressed empathy for the pressure Elking faced and said he has tried to look more at the end result rather than the beginning. He said he was grateful for Elking’s admission of fault and that he took steps to fix the situation, which ultimately gave Johnson his freedom.
Johnson said he does not harbor any bitterness or anger.
“If you hold onto that anger, you’re just imprisoning yourself again, and so I did 28 years. I’m not going to do this the rest of my life, being bitter about the past,” he said.