Exonerated on March 28, 2000
Donnell Johnson was let out of prison in 2000 after serving almost five years for murder. Johnson was arrested in 1994 after a 9-year-old boy was killed outside of his grandmother’s house. The boy was counting his Halloween candy when two men walked into the group he was with and started shooting. Johnson was sixteen years old when he was identified as one of the shooters.
Though the police believed that the shooting was gang related, Johnson was arrested one day after the shooting based on eyewitness identification. Family members identified Johnson in a police lineup despite their account that it was dark out and the shooters were wearing hoods. Johnson’s grandmother stated that he was watching football at the time of the shooting. Even with this alibi, Johnson was convicted in 1996.
A 1998 appeal was shut down, however, during an unrelated federal drug investigation in 2000, a gang-member came forward and confessed to the crime; claiming that Johnson had nothing to do with it. Because of this evidence Suffolk D.A. Ralph C. Martin publicly admitted error in this case, and publicly apologized to Johnson.