Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Activists: Hazelwood Man Wrongfully Imprisoned

Human rights activists say they have new evidence proving the innocence of a Hazelwood man convicted of homicide.

A small group delivered about 550 signatures to Allegheny County District Attorney Stephen Zappala’s office today, demanding the release of Terrell Johnson after 16 years in prison. The D.A.’s office accepted the petition, but did not comment.

Terrell Johnson’s wife, Saundra Cole, says Johnson’s legal team will have a new witness at his October retrial who can refute the testimony of Evelyn McBride, the prosecution’s key witness.

“Recently, [McBride] lived with a young lady named Hazel Hastings, and she’s on a video stating that Evelyn McBride stated that Terrell had nothing at all to do with this case. He just got caught up because he was from the Hazelwood area,” says Cole.

Human Rights Coalition organizer Bret Grote says Johnson’s presumption of innocence has been reinstated since his October 25 retrial was approved last fall.

Cole says the D.A. offered Johnson a deal for 7 ½ to 15 years, which would have allowed the man to be released because of time already served. However, Cole says Johnson turned down the deal because he would have retained the homicide charge on his record.

Grote says three men were accused of murdering Verna Robinson on July 21, 1994, but Johnson was the only one convicted because his lawyer was incompetent. Grote says Johnson’s legal team will be much more prepared for his retrial.

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