Donnell Johnson Testimonial
Read the related news article HERE
June 16, 2022
I don’t know what to say? I don’t believe that what happened to me this
week, and over the past 15 years has really hit me yet? All I know is, I can’t
believe I’m a free man, and I owe my freedom to my dear friend, bradley
In January of 2008 I was arrested and charged with 1 st degree murder. The
police said that on august 12, 2007, I had shot and killed a man in broad
daylight at the corner of barclay and 22 nd street. That was a sunday and I
was out there that day, but I didn’t do it.
I later learned that the reason they charged me was because a woman and
her brother said they knew me, they were there and they saw me do it. The
woman didn’t say anything to the police until January of 2008, and only
after being herself arrested on a drug charge. She told the police what she
saw me do, and within an hour she was out of jail and her drug case was
erased from the books. I don’t know, but I assume that her brother just told
them what she told him to say?
They took me to trial in march of 2009 and they convicted me. I was
shocked that the jury would believe this woman and her brother, but they
obviously did. I was sentenced by judge john themelis to life in prison. I was
36 years old and I assumed I’d die without ever seeing the streets again,
and without ever seeing my family and friends outside of a visitation room.
But on April 27, of 2021, a miracle happened. As a last resort, I had filed a
post-conviction petition informing the court that I believed that the lawyer at
my first trial had made mistakes that caused my conviction, and that as a
result my 2008 conviction should be vacated and I should be given a new
trial. judge Jeffrey geller agreed and suddenly after spending the last 15
years in prison, I had some hope.
I am blessed to have many good friends that never lost faith that something
great would happen for me. When judge geller granted me a new trial, I
talked to them and they told me that this time around they were going to
make sure that I had the best representation that money could buy. They
told me that they knew Bradley macfee and that years earlier he had
beaten an attempted murder charge for one of them. they said they would
hire Bradley for me and I trusted them to have my best interest in their
hearts, so I thanked them and they started working on getting Bradley paid.
Unfortunately, despite their hard work, it took them close to a year to pay
the fee, so Bradley wasn’t able to enter the case until a little over a week
before the re-trial. up to that point I had met with him and discussed the
case a few times, but I was still being represented by the public defender’s
office. Finally, on June 7, 2022, Bradley came to mrdcc to visit me and
promised that he would be ready to go to trial the following week.
On June 13, 2022 I was taken to the courtroom of judge Jeannie hong.
Bradley and the prosecutor were doing and saying all kinds of things to the
judge, and I was trying to follow along, but in reality my head was spinning
the entire time. I couldn’t believe that it was possible that I might be
acquitted after this trial and walk away a free man, but at the same time I
was terrified that I would get the same result this time as I did at the first
trial, and be sentenced to life a second time.
Over the next 3 days the state presented 6 witnesses. The brother and
sister that had testified against me at the first trial had passed away, but he
was still able to use the same testimony they gave that got me convicted,
but he had to present it differently. Aside from the brother and sister, he
presented the coroner, the lead detective, the crime scene technician and
the gun examiner. After 3 days of motions and testimony, the lawyers did
their closing arguments and the case went to the jury on June 15, 2022, at
I had barely reached the bullpen when a call came in that the jury had a
verdict. It hadn’t even been an hour. They took me back to the courtroom
and when I got there Bradley told me that I would be going home tonight.
He said there is no way that 12 civilized people can send a man to prison
for life after only talking about it for 45 minutes. Still, I was scared to death.
10 minutes later the judge had the jury brought into the courtroom and the
clerk asked the jury forewoman to read the verdict. He said “on the charge
that on august 12, 2007, the defendant, donnell johnson, did commit the
crime of 1 st degree murder, how do you find, guilt or not guilty?”
2 nd degree murder…..”not guilty”
Use of a handgun in a crime of violence….”not guilty”
Just that fast, 15 years of incarceration came to an end and I was on my
way home. Im not too proud to say I stood in that courtroom next to my
lawyer and cried like a baby. I couldn’t believe what just happened. It was a
miracle!! I could start my life again!!
I am now 51 years old. I feel like I owe Bradley macfee a debt that I can
never repay. Maybe this letter is a start. It certainly is a small token of my
appreciation for giving me my life back, and giving me the opportunity to
Live the rest of my life as a free man.