After 21 Years, Man Convicted Of Murder Gets New Trial, Taste of Freedom

Charles Johnson walked out of the gates of Cook County Jail Monday after 21 years behind bars.

But Johnson is not a free man. At least not yet.

Johnson was convicted along with three others, in the brutal 1995 murder of two employees at a Western Avenue car dealership. In that case two cars were stolen and later found abandoned on the South Side.

But in July, the Chicago man who was just 19 years old when he was arrested was granted a new trial after defense attorneys presented what they argued was new evidence in the case. The killers had ripped a window sticker from one of the cars, and a fingerprint found on that sticker matched a convicted drug dealer who lived just a block from where the car was abandoned near 78th and Ingleside.

Even though Johnson’s conviction was thrown out, prosecutors announced an intention to retry Johnson and a co-defendant Larod Styles. Technically granted a ticket to the outside world, Johnson’s bond was set at $500,000. It took until today for his family to post the required 10 percent to secure his release.

There were complications in the case---confessions from the two defendants. But defense lawyers said Johnson only signed the confession after being told it was a “routine” document which would allow him to go home.

Walking out to the cheers of family and friends Monday, Johnson said he was just happy to be going home.

“Man, God is good,” he said. “Our prayers have been answered, and I’m just happy to spend time with my family and friends, and I look forward to proving my innocence in a new trial.”

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