Georgia Man Who Faced Death Sentence Acquitted After 29 Years

Timothy Johnson was acquitted of murder charges and released from prison in Georgia on December 5, twenty-nine years after being charged with a murder and robbery at a convenience store. Johnson had originally pled guilty to the crimes in exchange for the prosecution’s agreement not to seek the death penalty. The Georgia Supreme Court overturned his conviction in 2006 because he was not properly informed of his constitutional protection against self-incrimination and his right to confront witnesses against him. The jury deliberated for only about an hour before rendering the acquittal. His family greeted him upon his release. “My heart is overwhelmed for him,” said his uncle, Willie Wilson. “I’m just elated.”

(B. Purser, “After 29 years in jail, Timothy Johnson is free,” Macon Telegraph, December 6, 2013). See Innocence and Arbitrariness. The case illustrates the danger of using the death penalty as a plea-bargaining incentive. Defendants sometimes plead guilty to a crime they did not commit in order to avoid the possibility of a death sentence.