In 1970, a young man who had just turned 18 years was taken in to Pennsylvania Department of Corrections after being convicted of murder.
Mr. Arthur ‘Cetewayo’ Johnson was the young man convicted in the murder of Jerome Wakefield based solely on a signed statement that Mr. Johnson testified at trial he could not read according to his lawyers at The Abolitionist Law Center (ALC).
The prosecution accused Mr. Johnson of stabbing Mr. Wakefield, who had already been shot by Johnson’s juvenile codefendant, Gary Brame. Brame was sentenced to 5 to 15 years.
Philadelphia District Attorney (DA) and Common Pleas Court Judge Scott DiClaudio agreed that the case was fraught with false and “highly suspect” statements.
The DA wrote in a filing that those flaws “seriously undermine the integrity of Johnson’s conviction.”
On Wednesday, Johnson agreed to a 10-to-20-year sentence — effectively time served — and pleaded guilty to a lesser charge. This was the only option given by the DA’s office for his release, even as Mr. Johnson continued to insist he was innocent of the charges and the absence of evidence to subtantiate the charges.
In cases where no physical evidence has been retrieved to collaborate and aid in conviction of a suspect; cases especially those involving minorities, witness statements come into sharp focus to help drive the nail into the coffin.
Questions of how the police got the now so called ”false and highly suspect” statements is a common theme in such cases over and over again.
The DA noted that a 15 year old witness was coerced during a 21 hour straight interrogation within 30 hours and gave multiple conflicting information.
The prosecution used these unsubstantiated/ uncollaborated statements to lock Mr. Johnson and throw the keys away for half a century.
Johnson’s strength of character kept him from breaking down. He choose to be positive, worked out perpetually and was nick named CETEWAYO by some inmates, after a Zulu leader, in recognition of Johnson’s strength and endurance.