Despite strong evidence he’s innocent, Alabama wants to execute father of five Toforest Johnson

Stephen Nartey September 19, 2023
Toforest Johnson was sentenced to death in 1998 (Photo: Alabama Department of Corrections)

Despite concerns there is no conclusive physical or forensic evidence linking Toforest Johnson, a 49-year-old father, to a 1998 murder of a sheriff’s deputy in Jefferson County, the state of Alabama is persistent in its pursuit to execute him.

The controversial case has raised doubts about his guilt, as neither prosecutors, investigators, nor the jury believe he committed the crime for which he was convicted.

The evidence used by the jury in sentencing him was a jailhouse phone call, reportedly overheard by a third party, in which Johnson was alleged to have confessed to shooting the deputy. This call is considered a critical element in the prosecution’s case against him, according to the Daily Mail.

Nineteen years after Johnson’s trial, it has come to light that the key witness who divulged the jailhouse phone call evidence was paid $5,000 for her testimony. This revelation has raised doubts about the credibility of the key witness’ claims, as it appears Johnson may have been recounting the allegations that led to his arrest.

Jurors, including Monique Hicks and Jay Crane, who handed down the verdict in the infamous case, now have profound concerns about the conviction. Hicks lamented that with the benefit of hindsight, they may have wrongfully convicted an innocent man. Fellow juror Cray added that he doesn’t think they placed the right person in prison.

Over 14 former judges, prosecutors, and officials, including the individual responsible for securing Johnson’s conviction, are now advocating for the overturning of his case. Johnson and at least 10 witnesses maintain that he was present in a Birmingham, Alabama club on the day of the shooting, casting doubt on his guilt.

After 25 years on death row, Johnson, a father of five, maintains his innocence. His daughter, Shanaye Poole, expressed deep sorrow, emphasizing that the case raises broader questions about the justice system, leaving her to wonder how they arrived at this point.

Despite spending decades on death row, Johnson holds a spark of hope, as the Supreme Court is poised to make a decision regarding his landmark case, possibly as early as October 2. His loved ones remain supportive, and there is widespread demand for a retrial.

Investigator Beth Shelburne, who has followed Johnson’s case for over three years, finds it perplexing that he remains incarcerated in light of the substantial support for a new trial. She pointed out the irony that despite this surge in support, the state of Alabama is actively pursuing his execution. The renewed momentum for a retrial has been driven by Jefferson County District Attorney Danny Carr, who conducted a thorough nine-month review of the case.

Last Edited by:Mildred Europa Taylor Updated: September 19, 2023


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