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Albert K. Johnson

Other California Cases with Mistaken Witness Identifications
At about 11 p.m. on February 24, 1992, a young white woman was talking on a pay phone in San Pablo, California when a stranger stopped to ask directions. As she approached his car, she saw a metal object in the car, guessed it was a gun, and felt she had no choice when the driver insisted she get in the car. She was driven to a secluded intersection, forced to perform oral sex, and raped.

Two hours later, 30-year-old Albert Johnson, engaged to be married and with children, was stopped for a speeding violation. When the officer saw a chrome bar in the car, Johnson was arrested.

Before being taken to the hospital, the victim was driven to the intersection where Johnson had been stopped for a one-on-one show-up identification. Although the victim was instructed that the man she would see may or may not be her assailant, she told the officer that she recognized the car and that Johnson was the rapist.

The lead detective in the case assembled a photographic lineup with Johnson’s picture and showed it to a young woman who had been attacked while she was jogging at a high school track in Richmond, California in December 1991. The victim in that case said a man who approached her and demanded, at gunpoint, that she stop running. She said he ordered her to go behind a building, forced her to perform oral sex, and raped her. He stole her watch and gold chain and walked her back to the track before telling her to leave.

The detective told the victim that the perpetrator was in the lineup and encouraged her to make a selection. When she noted that Johnson had lighter skin than her attacker, the detective explained that Johnson had been in prison working out and had little exposure to sun, hence the lighter skin. Ultimately, she identified Johnson as the assailant and the detective confirmed for her that was the suspect. She later claimed she was pressured into making this identification.

Ultimately, Johnson went to trial in Contra Costa County Superior Court in separate trials for each rape charge. He was convicted in both trials and sentenced to 39 years in prison.

Johnson studied law while incarcerated and sought DNA testing for the two rape cases. Unfortunately, his lawyer on the first case - whom he later accused of negligence for failing to pursue DNA testing or consult eyewitness identification experts - never filed a petition to preserve the rape kit, so it was destroyed.

The attorney who tried the second case, however, requested that the rape kit from the second victim was preserved for testing. In October 2002, DNA test results revealed that Johnson could not have been the perpetrator of the second assault. Despite continued assertions of his guilt by the District Attorney and victim in the first case, Johnson was exonerated and freed from prison.  
 
Summary courtesy of the Innocence Project, http://www.innocenceproject.org/. Reproduced with permission.

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Posting Date:  Before June 2012
State:California
County:Contra Costa
Most Serious Crime:Sexual Assault
Additional Convictions:Burglary/Unlawful Entry
Reported Crime Date:1992
Convicted:1992
Exonerated:2002
Sentence:24 years
Race:Black
Sex:Male
Age at the date of crime:30
Contributing Factors:Mistaken Witness ID, Official Misconduct
Did DNA evidence contribute to the exoneration?:Yes