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Kim Kardashian: Toforest Johnson is an innocent man

Despite evidence suggesting his innocence, Attorney General Steve Marshall continues to argue in court to deny Johnson’s petition for a new trial.

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Kim Kardashian joins a growing list of individuals advocating for the freedom of Toforest Johnson.

On Thursday Kardashian shared several infographics on Instagram, where she has 364 million followers, about Johnson’s criminal case and why she believes he is an innocent man still trapped on death row. In one post Kardashian wrote, “[Johnson] spent his 26th Christmas in prison for a crime he did not commit”, and included a link to a petition to help Johnson. 

Johnson, 50, was convicted in 1998 for the murder of Sheriff’s Deputy William Hardy despite Johnson having a credible alibi and the state having unreliable evidence. The only evidence the state had against Johnson was the testimony of one earwitness who claimed to have heard Johnson say over the phone that he killed Hardy.

It would later be discovered that the earwitness was secretly paid $5,000 for her testimony by the state, which the prosecution did not disclose during Johnson’s trial.

In 2020, Jefferson County District Attorney Danny Carr conducted a nine-month investigation into Johnson’s conviction and concluded that a new trial was warranted given multiple facts. These facts included the earwitness being paid by the state, 10 alibi witnesses who said that Johnson was across town at the time of Hardy’s murder and the prosecution presenting different theories for the murder at multiple proceedings.

But the Office of Attorney General Steve Marshall has waved off this investigation calling it Carr’s “subjective opinion.” In an appeal filing by Johnson in the Jefferson County Circuit Court the pleading argues that the investigation can not be summarily ignored.

“There can be no greater miscarriage of justice than the incarceration and execution of an innocent person,” the filing reads. “The Alabama Supreme Court has suggested that a miscarriage of justice exists where a decision would cause a “loss of confidence in the validity of judicial proceedings in this case.” Ex parte Brown, 11 So. 3d 933, 940 (Ala. 2008). Here, the Office of the District Attorney itself, the representative of the people of Jefferson County, has lost confidence in the validity of Mr. Johnson’s conviction and death sentence. Yet, the Attorney General asks this Court to disregard the Office of the District Attorney’s position and dismiss this petition anyway. Doing so would cement a loss of confidence in the validity and integrity of judicial proceedings in Jefferson County and would result in an irreparable miscarriage of justice.”

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On Dec. 3, during a faith rally in support of Johnson in Birmingham, Carr spoke about doing the right thing, especially in leadership roles potentially alluding to Marshall and Alabama’s attempts to deny Johnson a new trial.

“Leadership is not about being right but about making things right,” Carr said.

Kardashian also posted a link to the podcast Earwitness. In October the podcast released and investigates Johnson’s case and illuminates many facts previously unknown to the public surrounding his eventual conviction. The podcast was created in collaboration between Alabama journalist Beth Shelburne and podcast publisher Lava For Good.

APR spoke to Shelburne shortly after the release of Earwitness and Shelburne said she felt as though Johnson’s case and his injustice demonstrated how the justice system was working as intended.

“You know, like I mentioned, people of color are at an immediate disadvantage when they’re charged with serious crimes because they do not usually have a presumption of innocence,” Shelburne said. “You know, when they’re in the defendants chair, the jury looks at them like, ‘well, they must be guilty because they’re sitting here.’ I think that there’s all kinds of issues about tactics that law enforcement are allowed to use. And one thing that surprised me and is extraordinary about this case is that so far the courts have said nothing illegal happened. And so it’s not really a symptom of Toforest Johnson being wrongfully convicted, sure it’s a horrible injustice, but it’s not really a symptom of a broken system. It’s a symptom of the system working the way it’s designed to work, and that is truly terrifying.”

Former Attorney General Bill Baxley, a strong supporter of the death penalty, stated that he believes Johnson is innocent. Baxley even wrote an op-ed for the Washington Post in 2021 stating that, “As a lifelong defender of the death penalty, I do not lightly say what follows: An innocent man is trapped on Alabama’s death row”. The original prosecutor for Johnson’s trial, Jeff Wallace, also supports Johnson obtaining a new trial.

On a website advocating for Johnson’s freedom, there is a list of individuals who believe he is innocent including former jurors, judges, and attorneys. 

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Yet, despite evidence suggesting Johnson’s innocence, Marshall continues to argue in court to deny Johnson’s petition for a new trial while seeking his execution.

Patrick Darrington is a reporter at the Alabama Political Reporter. You can reach him at [email protected].

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