On the morning of October 19, 1984, Angela Bond was found in her bed in Bogalusa, Louisiana with a knife and fork protruding from her body. She had been sexually assaulted and killed just hours earlier.
Among those questioned was her 27-year-old boyfriend, Anthony Johnson, who said he spent several nights a week at Bond’s home.
Johnson was arrested that day and charged with Bond’s murder. He was indicted for the murder in December 1984.
On June 26, 1985, while Johnson was awaiting trial, Bevalina Brown was murdered in Bogalusa in the same bedroom Bonds had been killed months before.
Weeks later, on July 12, 1985, a third woman, Regina Jackson, was murdered in Bogalusa, and her body was found within a few miles of the two prior homicides.
Johnson went to trial in 22nd Judicial District Court in February 1986. His lawyer waived making an opening statement.
The prosecution relied heavily on a claim by a police officer that Johnson had made a statement about the types of weapons used in the murder—information police said only the killer would know. The statement was not recorded until a report was written two months after Johnson was arrested.
The prosecution also presented the testimony of a forensic analyst who said there was a 90 percent chance that a hair found in a shower cap at the crime scene belonged to Johnson.
Further, a witness alleged he saw Johnson drive past him shortly after the crime as the witness was taking his trash out to the curb. He said Johnson honked at him and waved. At the time, Johnson was working as an orderly at the Bogalusa Medical Center and routinely wore a shower cap on his way to work.
The defense also attempted to portray Matthew Brown—who had been charged with the murders of Bevalina Brown and Regina Jackson—as the killer of Bond. The prosecution stipulated that Matthew Brown had confessed to both murders.
The defense called Brown, but he refused to testify and asserted his 5th Amendment right against self-incrimination.
Johnson testified in his own defense, maintained he was innocent and said that he didn’t have special knowledge—the police had told him about the knife and fork.
Johnson was convicted of second degree murder on February 25, 1986 and sentenced to life in prison.
Johnson lost multiple appeals and post-conviction attempts were rejected. In 2004, he enlisted the assistance of the Innocence Project of New Orleans which filed a petition for DNA testing and began re-investigating the case.
On March 26, 2006, the DNA tests excluded Johnson as the source of the DNA under the victim’s fingernails. On February 21, 2007, Johnson was granted a new trial because of the DNA test results and because of the withholding of exculpatory evidence by prosecutors.
The suppressed evidence included statements made to police from at least two people who said that Matthew Brown had told them he killed Bond and that someone else was “taking the rap.”
The suppressed evidence also included testimony that the trash collection—the key element to the timing of the identification of Johnson as leaving the home—occurred on the day prior to the murder, not the morning of the murder.
On February, 21, 2007, Johnson was released on bond during the appeal.
The prosecution appealed the order for a new trial and won in October 2007. However, in June 2009, the Louisiana Supreme Court ordered the case back to the trial court for an evidentiary hearing.
Following that hearing, the court, on July 22, 2009, again ordered a new trial.
Prior to the retrial, prosecutors linked the DNA recovered from Bond’s fingernails to Matthew Brown, who had been subsequently convicted of killing Regina Jackson and Bevalina Brown.
The state dismissed the charges against Johnson on September 15, 2010.
Johnson filed a civil wrongful conviction lawsuit in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana in October 2010.
– Maurice Possley