NEW ORLEANS — The mother of a murder victim in New Orleans may play a key role in a perjury case against two men who changed their stories about the crime, leading to freedom for a man who had been locked up for 20 years.
Criminal justice advocates say the wrong man was convicted in the shooting death of Clarence Landry. Jerome Morgan was freed in 2014 and a murder charge was dropped after the witnesses recanted their testimony.
Those witnesses, Kevin Johnson and Hakim Shabazz now face perjury charges. District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro said they either lied when they were teenagers about Landry’s death in 1993, or when they recanted 20 years later, leading to his murder conviction being overturned.
Defense lawyers say their testimony at trial was coerced by police, and they don’t believe Landry’s mother wants to see Johnson or Shabazz prosecuted.
Trial had been set for Friday but it was delayed until Dec. 9 after defense attorneys said they would like prosecutors to speak to the murder victim’s mother.
“I don’t think that she believes that these two individuals came in here and said anything or did anything to get Jerome Morgan convicted maliciously,” Defense lawyer Robert Hjorsberg said.
Hjorsberg is an associate of the law firm of attorney Jason Williams, a New Orleans City Council member and a board member with the Innocence Project New Orleans, which works to free wrongfully convicted inmates. Williams joined the case as an attorney for Shabazz on Friday.