BALTIMORE, Md. (FOX 5 DC) - A Maryland man locked up for a murder he didn’t commit is now suing the Baltimore Police Department.
Jerome Johnson spent 30 years in prison before he was released this summer.
A lawsuit filed Wednesday names the department and four former detectives. It claims police falsified police reports, misled the jury and pressured a witness to change her story.
“I tried explaining to them that I didn’t have nothing to do with the crime,” Johnson told FOX 5 in an interview after he was freed.
In 1988, there was a murder at a Baltimore bar. Johnson was a block away from the scene. His attorney, Andrew Freeman explains that three men and a gunman targeted the victim and a teenage girl was the prosecution’s star witness.
”That was the story she told the night of the murder, that it was three guys plus the gunman,” said Freeman. “And somehow, a couple days later, the police got her to add a fourth person and said that fourth person was Mr. Johnson.”
Freeman says what happened wasn’t a one-off, but a pattern. The suit alleges there are a dozen other cases where a person was wrongfully convicted in Baltimore because the evidence was suppressed.
"This was really commonplace practice in the Baltimore Police Department that they would make up their minds who they thought was involved in a murder and then fit the facts, fit the evidence to that story,” said Freeman.
In Maryland, those wrongly convicted aren’t automatically entitled to a specific payout. Freeman says some get nothing.
It’s why Johnson’s suing. The suit isn't asking for a specific amount of money.
"No amount of money will give Mr. Johnson back the 30 years he’s been in prison, and that will ultimately be up to a jury,” he said.
Freeman says based on other cases similar to this one, the norm is about a $1 million for every year someone is wrongly in prison. These lawsuits can take years to reach a conclusion.
“I spent so much of my life in prison for something I didn’t do. We can’t go back and change the past, but I hope that there is justice at the end of this road,” said Johnson in a statement.
A Baltimore police spokesperson says the department can’t comment on pending litigation.