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Johnetta Carr

Other Female Exonerees
The body of 36-year-old Planes Adolphe was found outside his home at the Americana Apartments in Louisville, Kentucky on the morning of October 23, 2005. Adolphe, a cab driver and immigrant from Haiti, had been strangled and his feet bound with duct tape. His wallet and cellphone were stolen, and his cab was later found abandoned a few miles away.

Police arrested 19-year-old Carla Sowers on December 20, 2005, and charged her with murder in Adolphe’s death. Sowers led police to two other suspects, Shawndric Williams and 16-year-old Johnetta Carr, who was dating Adolphe.

Carr was initially charged as a juvenile and was later indicted as an adult in Jefferson County Circuit Court on April 27, 2006. Prosecutors told her that they planned to pursue the death penalty against Williams and that they would not accept guilty pleas from any of the three defendants unless they all agreed to plead guilty. After a lengthy interrogation, Sowers implicated Carr in the robbery and murder, although she quickly recanted her statement. Separately, a jailhouse informant told the police that Carr had confessed to the crime.

The state condudcted DNA testing on several items from the crime scene, including the duct tape and an electrical cord used to strangle Adolphe. The results were either inconclusive or excluded Carr as a contribtor, but these findings were not shared with Carr's attorney.

On May 28, 2008, Carr entered an Alford plea in Jefferson County Circuit Court to second-degree manslaughter, first-degree conspiracy to commit robbery, second-degree conspiracy to commit burglary, and tampering with physical evidence. Alford pleas allow defendants to enter a guilty plea without admitting guilt. Carr was sentenced to 20 years in prison but was paroled on December 9, 2009. She completed her parole on June 14, 2018.

Carr never filed any post-conviction motions for relief. She said that in either 2008 or 2009, she was called to the office at the Otter Creek Correctional Complex, where she was then incarcerated. The jailhouse informant was in the office, and the woman said that the police had told her to lie and say that Carr had confessed. The woman said that she would write a letter on Carr's behalf, although it is unclear if she did. "I didn't know her before I went to jail and didn't really know her while in jail," Carr would later say. "So many lies were told on me."

On December 6, 2019, Carr submitted a pardon request to Gov. Matt Bevin. In her application, she noted that she had been successful in her life but still struggled to move past her conviction. “My record makes life difficult for me,” she wrote, “and I hate having to explain to people that I was convicted for this crime I didn’t do. It’s awful for people to think that you killed your boyfriend when you did not.”

Bevin pardoned Carr on December 9, 2019, which was 10 years to the day that she was released from prison. He called her personally to deliver the news, and Carr would tell CNN that it “was the best moment of my life, so far.” In December 2020, Carr filed a federal lawsuit in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Kentucky against Louisville, Jefferson County and several officers on their combined police department, alleging that their misconduct and flawed investigation led to her wrongful conviction. A judge dismissed the lawsuit in July 2021. Carr appealed and in June 2022, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit reversed the dismissal and reinstated the lawsuit.

– Ken Otterbourg

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Posting Date: 4/22/2020
Last Updated: 6/18/2022
Most Serious Crime:Manslaughter
Additional Convictions:Conspiracy, Other
Reported Crime Date:2005
Sentence:20 years
Age at the date of reported crime:16
Contributing Factors:Perjury or False Accusation, Official Misconduct
Did DNA evidence contribute to the exoneration?:Yes*