Several days ago, the U.S. Third Circuit Court of Appeals, sitting in Philadelphia, delivered a shocking decision in the continuing case of Lorenzo Johnson, the New Yorker recently released from 17 years in prison after the very same court found the evidence was insufficient to uphold a conviction.
Lorenzo (known by family and friends as Cat), spent just over 4 months in freedom, until a U.S. Supreme Court per curlem opinion, without arguments or briefing, summarily ordered his return to a life sentence for a murder that the evidence shows he did not, and could not, have committed.
In the year since his return to PA prisons, his lawyers have uncovered a wealth of evidence that reveals not only his innocence, but that of his co-accused. Indeed, they have shown that the State knowingly used false evidence to secure a conviction from Day One. Moreover, it appears the state’s star witness, a notorious crack fiend, may herself have been an accomplice in the slaying of a small-time Harrisburg drug dealer.
But back to the shocking decision. The 3rd Circuit, after receiving an extraordinary writ that proved every facet of the original trial was corrupt, said the petition didn’t meet the standard for a second habeas corpus writ.
A few days ago, Cat sat with the recently freed NY exonerated prisoner, Jeff Deskovic, and both men quietly wept.
In the face of such bold injustice, what more can men do?
No sober judge, reading such pleadings as his lawyers filed, could in good conscience say it didn’t prove the injustices claimed. But judges today are seldom sober.
They are political actors who wear robes, instead of suits. And their job is to protect a system of corruption, lest the whole system collapse under its monstrous weight.
For Cat, the struggle continues.
In fact, a serious post-conviction petition is now pending in the county court in Harrisburg, PA.