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Wrongful conviction case on potential path to trial

A man who has spent more than two decades in prison for a murder he claims he didn’t commit may get a new trial as early as this summer.

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports that Cole County Circuit Court Judge Daniel Green discussed potential trial dates for Lamar Johnson at a hearing Monday in which he indicated that he was “unlikely” to grant a state motion that would deny the 47-year-old his latest bid for freedom. Green is set to rule in late February.

Johnson was convicted in the 1994 killing of 25-year-old Marcus Boyd in an alleged drug dispute. St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner, who has sought a new trial, agreed with his alibi that he was with his girlfriend miles away when Boyd was killed.

Years after the killing, the state’s only witness recanted his identification of Johnson and another suspect, Phil Campbell, who pleaded guilty to a reduced charge in exchange for a seven-year prison term. Two other men have confessed to Boyd’s killing and said Johnson was not involved.

In court filings, Johnson’s attorneys told Green that the case is about a “grossly unfair trial.”

But Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt’s office, which has fought efforts to free Johnson, argued that his alibi was “far from rock-solid.”

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