Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Court Overturns Black Poz Inmate Michael Johnson's Conviction 

There's fantastic news from Missouri today on behalf of Michael Johnson. He's the young black, gay and HIV poz wrestler who was sentenced to 30-years incarceration for violating the state's outdated, dangerous and draconian transmission law.

The Missouri Court of Appeals, in a order signed by Judge James M. Dowd, has thrown out Michael's conviction and new trial for him remanded. The state has 15 days to refile charges. Ugh. Let's hope that doesn't happen.

These are excerpts from the ruling, the full order can be read here:

"We hold, therefore, that the State's blatant discovery violation here is inexcusable, should not be repeated . . . and supports finding of fundamental unfairness in this case . . . We note that in a similar sort of violation of Rule 25.03--the late endorsement of a witness--the Missouri Supreme Court has held on numerous occasions . . . that in determining whether the trial court abused its discretion . . .

"Here, the State admitted that by failing to timely disclose Johnson's jail phone recordings, it intended to keep defense counsel from learning of them and preparing for their introduction at trial. The State's bad-faith strategy was successful, and its withholding of the recordings clearly was intended to disadvantage Johnson.

"Accordingly, we find that the trial court abused its discretion by admitting the excerpted recording of the phone calls Johnson made while in jail. Johnson's first point is granted, and we reverse and remand for a new trial. In light of this holding, we do not consider Johnson's second point on appeal, which relates solely to the constitutionality of Johnson's punishment for an offense for which he must now be retried."

1 comment:

Stephen R. Stapleton, Sacramento, CA said...

Yes, a retrial is very good news indeed, but, not to rain on the parade here, the specifically did not rule on the broader issue of Constitutionality of the law itself, but on the narrow grounds of prosecutorial error and judicial abuse of discretion. Had the court ruled on the second point of the appeal and overturned the law, he would not face retrial, but would be released.

So, this is a battle won, with the war still to be fought.