BALTIMORE (WJZ) — A Baltimore area man, who was exonerated after being incarcerated for almost 30 years for a murder he did not commit, filed a federal lawsuit against former homicide detectives and the Baltimore Police Department for allegedly suppressing evidence of his innocence in order to implicate him in a murder.

“He’s trying to put his life back together,” Johnson’s lawyers said. “We’re looking for some compensation for the 30 years that those officers took.”

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Jerome Johnson was 20 years old in October 1988 when he was arrested and charged with murder.

However, Johnson always maintained his innocence, his lawyers said.

“I spent so much of my life in prison for something I didn’t do,” Johnson said. “We can’t go back and change the past, but I hope that there is justice at the end of this road.”

In July 2018 he was fully exonerated after a re-investigation by the Conviction Integrity Unit of the Baltimore City State’s Attorney’s Office.

Johnson is the second longest-serving exoneree in Maryland history, having spent 10,886 days behind bars, his lawyers said in a press release.

Johnson’s federal lawsuit against BPD and four homicide detectives who investigated the 1988 murder, alleges that the detectives concealed an initial, exculpatory statement by the State’s star witness.

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“The result of them hiding it was that he was convicted and spent 30 years in prison for a crime he did not commit,” his lawyers said. “Time in which he wasn’t there to watch his daughter grow up, watch his parents pass away.”

A police report setting out the statement, taken minutes after the murder, confirmed Mr. Johnson was not involved.

This lawsuit claims the jury never heard of that statement. Instead, it heard only the witness’ later version of the murder, which they claim was only the evidence implicating Johnson.

The lawsuit also alleges that the detectives pressured the witness to alter her story and the detectives falsified police reports and knowingly misled the jury and judge at the criminal trial, to allegedly secure Johnson’s conviction.

It also alleges these actions were part of a pattern and practice of behavior condoned by the Baltimore Police Department.

“Mr. Johnson was robbed of the prime of his life. While nothing in the world can give Mr. Johnson that time back, the police officers who violated his rights and are responsible for his wrongful conviction should be held accountable. We look forward to getting some measure of justice for Mr. Johnson for all that he has endured.”

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Kelsey Kushner