A Baltimore man who spent nearly 14 years behind bars for a murder that prosecutors now say he did not commit has been released from prison.
Lamar Johnson, 33, left Courthouse East in downtown Baltimore late Tuesday after a brief hearing.
Johnson was convicted of shooting a man several times, but his family and the investigators from the Innocence Project say there was no physical evidence and he had no motive to commit the crime in 2004.
Based on new evidence presented by attorneys from the Mid-Atlantic Innocence Project and the Conviction Integrity Unit of the Baltimore City State's Attorney’s Office, prosecutors requested a new trial for Johnson.
"This case cried out for intervention, and we're thrilled that the state did the right thing," said Parisa Dehghani-Tafti, Legal Director of the Mid-Atlantic Innocence Project, in a statement. "The criminal justice system had failed Lamar every step of the way until today, so it's a tremendous relief to see the system finally right this wrong."
Johnson was found guilty of a 2004 shooting that happened in broad daylight, although no physical evidence tied him to the incident and he had no motive.
He was misidentified as the shooter by an informant, according to the Innocence Project's news release.
The group has been working to free Johnson since 2010.
A Baltimore judge granted that request, and then prosecutors requested the case be placed on the inactive docket, allowing Johnson to be released.
Johnson was hugged by family and friends as he left court.
Moments later he told reporters, "First I want to thank God. It's a second chance at life because even though I'm innocent, I wasn't an angel but I'm not a murderer."
During his nearly 14 years of incarceration, Johnson admitted he had plenty of doubts about ever being released.
"Sometimes I used to think I was going to die in prison but something told me I gotta keep fighting. My mom had cancer, was fighting cancer, so I'm like, if she's fighting cancer, I ain't got no choice but to keep fighting."
Kathy Taylor, his mother, said she never gave up hope for her son "because I knew he was innocent."
Baltimore City State's Attorney Marilyn Mosby, who was not the city's top prosecutor when Johnson was convicted, apologized to Johnson and his family outside the courthouse.
In light of Tuesday's hearing, Mosby says her office will now resume its investigation of who killed Carlos Sawyer in East Baltimore in 2004.
"Carlos is not forgotten and my office will work with the Baltimore Police Department to do all that we can to investigate and prosecute the person who is truly responsible," said Mosby.
Lamar Johnson said while in prison, he received a GED and plans to pursue a college degree in business management.
He says he would one day like to co-own a McDonald's franchise.