Man freed from prison after 34 years after judge vacates conviction in 1990 murder

61-year-old Ronald Johnson was released from SCI-Phoenix on Monday night following a Philadelphia judge's decision and the prosecutor's move to dismiss charges.

A housing unit in the west section of the State Correctional Institution at Phoenix

FILE – This June 1, 2018, file photo, shows a housing unit in the west section of the State Correctional Institution at Phoenix in Collegeville, Pa. (Jacqueline Larma/AP)

A man has been released from Pennsylvania prison after more than three decades following a judge’s decision to vacate his conviction in a 1990 murder.

The Philadelphia Inquirer reports that 61-year-old Ronald Johnson was released from State Correctional Institution-Phoenix on Monday night following a Philadelphia judge’s decision and the prosecutor’s move to dismiss charges, according to the nonprofit public interest law firm Phillips Black, which advocates for incarcerated individuals.

The law firm said on its website that Johnson and “three generations of his family” had “fought tirelessly to prove his innocence” for more than three decades. Stephen Lazar, a legal apprentice on the team, quoted Johnson as saying his “first plan as a free man” after 34 years was to visit the burial site of his mother, who “always believed” in his innocence.

Johnson was convicted in the murder of Joseph Goldsby, who police said was dealing drugs when he was shot to death in his car in the Tioga section of north Philadelphia in March 1990.

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Defense attorneys argued that Johnson was convicted on the basis testimony offered by two men whose stories changed “considerably” over the course of police interviews, and the conviction was unsupported by fingerprint, DNA, or other forensic evidence.

Johnson’s lawyers said the witnesses initially said their client wasn’t present and later identified someone else as a potential suspect, but police and prosecutors at the time withheld that evidence.

The Philadelphia District Attorney’s office’s conviction integrity unit said in November that the evidence “undermines confidence in the outcome of Johnson’s trial.”

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