The Exoneration of Arthur Johnson

The Crime

On July 9, 1992, in Sunflower County, Mississippi, a young woman awoke to find a burglar in her home. The man held her at gunpoint and raped her. The victim believed that the rapist was a man she knew from the neighborhood named with the nickname "Boo Rabbit". This man, Arthur Johnson, was convicted on October 15, 1993, due to the victim's identification.

The Exoneration

In 2005, the Innocence project obtained evidence from the case and submitted it for DNA testing. In 2007, it was proven that Johnson could not have been the source of the semen found at the crime scene. The DNA was linked to the source of another man with a criminal history of attempted rapes and burglaries. Johnson was released in February of 2008 after spending 16 years in prison. He was compensated with $500,000.

The Case

The cause of the wrongful conviction was the false identification of Johnson by the sole witness of the crime itself, who was also the victim. The victim could have been influenced by multiple factors. The attack took place very early in the morning and as soon as the victim woke up. It is likely that she was in a very tired and confused state at this time. This is further exacerbated by the fear and trauma she endured by being raped at gunpoint. All of this could have made it very difficult for her to focus on the man's appearance. The victim first told a doctor that she didn't know the identity of the rapist. It was only later that she said she thought it was a man she knew, Arthur Johnson. It is possible that she was trying to connect the appearance of the suspect to someone she knew, and ended up convincing herself it was Johnson when she thought he may have looked similar. After telling this to a police officer, the officer immediately left and took Johnson into custody. It didn't seem as if the police looked into other suspects and were immediately sure it was Johnson. This could have reinforced the victim's belief that it was him, making her even more confident that she was right.

Reflection

The case seemed to be handled very poorly. None of the biological evidence at the crime scene linked Johnson to the crime. The rapist's semen was not tested to determine blood type, which was the standard procedure for rape cases at the time. This is what later proved Johnson's innocence. Other witnesses provided alibis for Johnson by stating that he was at their home during the time of the attack, but this was completely ignored. The biological evidence and Johnson's alibis should have been given equal importance as the victim's testimony.