Skip Ribbon Commands
Skip to main content

Patrick Johnson

Other New York Murder Cases with Inadequate Legal Defense
On March 24, 1982, two gunmen entered a carpet store in Brooklyn, New York and fatally shot Philip Taylor, a reputed drug dealer. Police believed the store was a front for a drug sales operation because there was only one roll of carpet in stock.

Shortly after the shooting, an informant told police that the store’s owner, Leo Anderson, who had previous arrests and convictions for drug crimes was present at the time of the shooting. Police located Anderson and took him to the 71st Precinct station. Before Anderson was questioned, however, he asked to use the bathroom and then slipped out of the station. Detectives found him again and brought him back, but again he managed to escape from the station.

Detectives found Anderson a third time on March 26—two days after the murder—and this time, they handcuffed him to a chair in the precinct. When Anderson was finally questioned, he gave the first of what would be five different versions of what happened. Because police believed he was running a drug operation and not a carpet business, they suspected Anderson knew who the gunmen were. Anderson said that he didn’t look at the gunmen. He said that he was afraid and he hid.

A detective later testified that he heard from an informant that one of the gunmen was named Patrick and learned that 22-year-old Patrick Johnson was being questioned about an unrelated crime in the 77th Precinct, several blocks away.

At 4 a.m. on March 27, 1982, Anderson was shown a lineup containing Johnson. Just before the lineup, detectives escorted Johnson in handcuffs past Anderson. Although Johnson was 22, the other four men in the lineup ranged in age from 37 to 46. Anderson said Johnson “looked like” one of the gunmen. Johnson was charged with second-degree murder of Taylor, attempted murder of Anderson, and criminal possession of a firearm.

Another man, Romeo Stultz, also was charged with the murder based on an identification by Anderson.

Johnson and Stultz went on trial in Kings County Supreme Court in January 1983. The state’s case relied almost entirely on the identifications made by Anderson. Johnson’s lawyer called several alibi witnesses as well as documentary records showing that Johnson had been paying a utility bill, at the time of the crime and making purchases for his wife, who was home ill. Johnson, who managed a grocery store, testified that he was off on the day of the crime and spent the entire day running errands for his family and spent the night in his home more than 10 miles from the scene of the murder.

No physical or forensic evidence linked either defendant to the crime. A mistrial was declared when the jury was unable to reach a unanimous verdict.

Johnson went on trial a second time in December 1983 by himself because Stultz attempted to rob a store in Brooklyn and was killed by the store owner. Johnson’s attorney at the second trial did not call any alibi witnesses, telling Johnson that he was convinced that Anderson was so incredible as an eyewitness that the jury would acquit him. During cross-examination, Anderson admitted he had lied to detectives on numerous occasions, saying he didn’t want to get involved in the case.

Nonetheless, on December 20, 1983, the jury convicted Johnson of second-degree murder, attempted murder and criminal possession of a firearm. He was sentenced to 15 years to life in prison.

In November 1984, Anderson, who was in prison, contacted Johnson, saying he had converted to Islam. Anderson signed a sworn affidavit saying that Johnson was not involved in the shooting and that he only identified Johnson because he saw him being led into the lineup in handcuffs.

Anderson said he lied “because (the police) came and picked me up and brought me down there and I guess if I didn’t do it, they just keep coming to pick me up again sometime…I wanted to get them off my back, get them to leave me alone.”

A motion to vacate Johnson’s convictions was filed, but the motion was denied in 1985 by the trial judge, Sybil Kooper, even though at sentencing in January 1984, Kooper had said there were “hundreds” of inconsistencies in Anderson’s testimony and she thought he was “a terrible witness.”

Johnson’s convictions were upheld on appeal. In June 1988, Johnson filed a motion to vacate his convictions on the ground that his trial attorney had provided a constitutionally defective defense by failing to call the alibi witnesses. That motion was denied, but in June 1992, the New York Court of Appeals reversed the convictions and ordered a new trial, finding that the lineup identification should have been suppressed because of Anderson’s “internally contradictory and inconsistent” testimony.

On April 5, 1993, the Kings County District Attorney’s Office dismissed the charges and Johnson was released.

In 1995, Johnson filed a claim for restitution with the New York Court of Claims, but the claim was dismissed.

– Maurice Possley

Report an error or add more information about this case.

Posting Date: 9/17/2014
State:New York
County:Kings
Most Serious Crime:Murder
Additional Convictions:Attempted Murder, Gun Possession or Sale
Reported Crime Date:1982
Convicted:1983
Exonerated:1993
Sentence:15 to Life
Race:Black
Sex:Male
Age at the date of crime:22
Contributing Factors:Perjury or False Accusation, Official Misconduct, Inadequate Legal Defense
Did DNA evidence contribute to the exoneration?:No