On April 17, 2023, lawyers for Toforest Johnson (pictured, center), who has spent 25 years on Alabama’s death row, filed a petition for a writ of certiorari to the U.S. Supreme Court requesting a new trial. The petition was buttressed by support from the present District Attorney and from the original trial prosecutor in Johnson’s case.

Johnson’s conviction rested on the testimony of a single witness who claimed to hear him confess over the phone and who was secretly paid a $5,000 reward. For two decades, local officials repeatedly denied the existence of a reward. Only after defense counsel received information from a retired state employee did the state disclose it. Nevertheless, the Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals denied Johnson a new trial on May 6, 2022.

Johnson has also received support from judges, other prosecutors, and three former jurors from his original trial. In a March 2021 Washington Post op-ed, former Alabama Attorney General Bill Baxley wrote, “[a]s a lifelong defender of the death penalty, I do not lightly say what follows: An innocent man is trapped on Alabama’s death row. … Johnson’s murder trial was so deeply flawed, the evidence presented against him so thin, that no Alabamian should tolerate his incarceration, let alone his execution.” Former Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Drayton Nabers, Jr. voiced his concern in a 2022 Alabama Daily News op-ed titled “Why Is Toforest Johnson Still on Alabama’s Death Row?”

Johnson’s lawyers assert that the state was required to turn over information about the reward prior to his trial and that such evidence probably would have resulted in a different outcome.


Ivana Hrynkiw, Lawyers for Alabama Death Row inmate Toforest Johnson appeal to U.S. Supreme Court,Al​.com, April 17, 2022; Drayton Nabers, Jr., Nabers: Why Is Toforest Johnson Still on Alabama’s Death Row?, Alabama Daily News, April 202022

Petition of Writ of Certiorari filed on April 172023