Back to Court: Case Overview and Update

The Case of Lorenzo Johnson

Lorenzo Johnson, who has served 22 years in prison, will have a hearing seeking to overturn his conviction on July 11, 2017, before Senior Judge Lawrence F. Clark, of the Dauphin County Court of Common Pleas. Judge Clark recently ruled that he would hear a broad range of the innocence claims of Lorenzo Johnson.

Johnson had served almost 17 years in prison when he won his freedom in 2012, after the Federal Appeals Court for the Third Circuit overturned his conviction. The Pennsylvania Attorney General appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court. A mere 148 days after gaining his freedom, on May 29, 2012, the United States Supreme Court, in a quick and shocking decision, without even requesting a full briefing and oral arguments, reinstated Lorenzo’s conviction and he was ordered to return to Pennsylvania to resume his sentence of life without parole, where he resides today.

New Evidence in Ten-Page Witness Statement Never Turned Over to Defense

Attorneys for Lorenzo Johnson filed a motion for new trial in 2014, asking the court to vacate Johnson’s conviction based on new evidence that included a ten- page statement at the time of the murder taken from the only “eyewitness” Carla Brown, that was never turned over to Lorenzo Johnson or any of his attorneys.

The statement, which contains exculpatory evidence that would certainly have been given to the jury at the original trial, was only turned over to the defense by the Attorney General’s office 18 years later in 2014.

Lorenzo Johnson said, “For 18 years my lawyers and I were led to believe that Carla Brown never gave a written statement to police. We relied on a police summary of what she told them. Her ten-page statement was never turned over to my legal team until 181/2 years later. Once we reviewed the statement, it became apparent prosecutors used false testimony to prosecute me, from my pre trial hearing all the way through to the Supreme Court of the United States. And, the Supreme Court used this false testimony to reinstate my conviction and return me to prison.”

Eight Pages of the Original Police Report of Murder Never Turned Over to Defense

The police report also indicates that there was “no witness” to the killing. This conflicts with the trial testimony of prosecution witness, Carla Brown, the only eyewitness to the murder who claims to have followed the victim, Lorenzo Johnson and his co-defendant, Corey Walker, out of a bar to the alleyway, where Williams was shot dead.

The Harrisburg police report also makes it clear that Carla Brown was actually a suspect in the murder herself. New witnesses that have come forward corroborate the fact that Brown was a suspect and identify her as one of the people who was with the murdered man as he went into the alley where he was shot. None of this information was ever turned over to the defense prior to, during or after the original trial.

The report indicates that fingerprints were taken from the shotgun used in the murder and that a “positive result” was obtained. This is the first time that Johnson and his attorney were made aware that there were fingerprints taken, or that a result was reached. Johnson was told at time of his trial that there was no fingerprint evidence. Carla Brown, who admitted being high on crack at the time of the murder, has given the police and the courts many conflicting accounts and provided the critical evidence that helped convict Johnson.

The problem with Brown’s testimony was that it was false. Nothing Carla Brown said about Lorenzo Johnson’s involvement in the shooting was corroborated by any other witness at trial.

In fact, it is believed that Carla Brown herself, lured Tarajay Williams to his death for two rocks of crack cocaine, exactly what was found in a hat next to his body. “According to the trial testimony of Officer Lucas, who secured the scene of the shooting, he found a black knit hat next to Williams’ body with two rocks of cocaine in it. Accordingly, she had a substantial motivation to exculpate herself, and if her testimony was not the product of confabulation, it was likely just made up.”

Only Other Witness Against Johnson Was Close Family Friend of Lead Detective

Unbeknownst to the defense at trial, one of only two prosecution witnesses, Victoria Doubs had a close family-like relationship with lead the investigative detective in Tarajay Williams murder case, Kevin Duffin. ( Victoria Doubs, who alleged that Johnson and his co-defendant, had an argument with the murder victim the day of the murder. New evidence revealed that this never happened.

The original filing contains sworn affidavits from people who had knowledge of the murder, knowledge of the real killer (s), information that discredits the key witness against Lorenzo, Carla Brown, as well as evidence that Lorenzo was in New York at the time of the murder and could not possibly be involved. It contains evidence that was withheld from Johnson’s defense that constitute violations of Brady v. Maryland, which stipulates that information favorable to the defendant must be turned over to the defense. That did not happen. Eight pages of police reports were not turned over to the defense.

New Witnesses State that Lorenzo Johnson Was Not at Bar or Involved in Crime on that Evening

Numerous witnesses have told investigators that Lorenzo Johnson was neither at the bar nor at the crime scene at the time of the murder. These same witnesses, on the other hand, place the main witness against Lorenzo, Carla Brown, at the scene, acting strange, and being taken away by police at the time of the murder. Some of the most compelling evidence of Lorenzo Johnson’s innocence comes in a sworn affidavit from a witness to the murder.

“I witnessed the murder of Tarajay Williams. One of the people out on the street that night was Carla Brown. I have known Carla Brown my whole life. In 1995, she was seriously addicted to crack and she would do anything to get it. The night Tarajay was killed she was with two guys. One guy she was with was Scott Holloway. Everybody on the street called him “D.” Carla, D, Tarajay, and the other guy went in between two houses and the shotgun blast went off.

“I didn’t come forward to exonerate Corey and Lorenzo because I really didn’t want to be involved. Lorenzo was not around the night Tarajay was killed. Lorenzo did not walk into the alley with Tarajay.”

Another witness states he saw the men who he believed killed Tarajay Williams, was taken on July 31, 2013. “I was standing next to Tarajay on the street. Two guys walked towards us coming from the direction of 15th and Market, a block away from Fab’s. Carla Brown was with those guys that night. I remember clearly that she was wearing a light-colored jacket–it was either light pink or white. She got out of a car with the two guys.

“Tarajay told me, “I’ll be right back” and walked towards them. I thought he was going up to them to make a deal. He met up with them at the alley. All of them, including Carla, went into the alley together. After that, I heard the gunshot. A crowd started to form at 14th and Market and I walked away to get as far as I could from where the gunshot came from.”

According to attorneys for Lorenzo Johnson, “The attached affidavits (in the PCRA filing) demonstrate that Carla Brown lied repeatedly, including when she testified at the preliminary hearing and at trial. Brown testified at both that she ran from the scene of the shooting and never returned that night, and that she did not speak to the police for a period of days or weeks after the shooting. Proof that she lied is now provided not only by the affidavit of a lay witness who saw Brown at the scene just minutes after the shooting, (Davenport Affidavit,) but also by Harrisburg Police Detective Robert Dillard, who attests that Brown was interviewed by the police the night of the shooting.”

An investigator for the Federal Community Defender Office for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania provided an affidavit concerning conversations with a person familiar with Carla Brown. “When asked about Carla Brown, the witness stated that she knows Ms. Brown because they are both from Harrisburg and from seeing Ms. Brown out on the streets when they both used to hang out at 14th and Market. She said that Ms. Brown was addicted to crack for over 20 years. The witness also stated that Lorenzo was not at the bar on the night of the shooting.”

“Another witness said that she knew Lorenzo Johnson could not have killed Tarajay Williams because he was with her in New York on the night of the shooting. “The witness explained that she does not recall all the details surrounding Mr. Williams’ death because so much time has passed. She was absolutely certain, however, that Lorenzo Johnson was not with Mr. Williams when he was killed because she was with Mr. Johnson in New York the night Mr. Williams was shot. She remembers that she and Mr. Johnson learned of Mr. Williams’s death at the same time, upon their return from New York, before they parted company. She recalls they were right next to each other, and thinks they were standing up when they learned of it.”

For more information, contact Lonnie Soury (917) 519-4521,,