NEW HAVEN - A man has been freed after serving nine years of a 38-year sentence for murder.
After a court hearing on Friday, Bobby Johnson, 25, walked out of the courthouse a free man. Cheers followed him out of court as he left with his family, who was overjoyed to bring him home. Johnson told a group of media that he owed his resolve to his family.
“Patience and love for my family and love for everybody else,” he said.
He was convicted of robbing and killing 70-year-old Herbert Fields in 2006, when Johnson was just 16.
On Wednesday, New Haven state’s attorney Michael Dearington filed a motion to vacate the conviction, stating that new information in Johnson’s case “has sufficiently undermined the state’s confidence in the judgement of conviction.” The judge approved it, and took it a step further by dismissing the case.
Vacating the sentence is not the same as acquitting Johnson. By vacating the sentence, the prosecutor and judge are saying that there was a lack of evidence to support a conviction.
The new information is the result of an investigation by Johnson’s attorney, Kenneth Rosenthal, and the Innocence Project through the Connecticut Public Defender’s office.
Johnson said he was coerced into falsely confessing to the murder by two New Haven officers, who questioned him without a parent or guardian present despite him being 16 and having a low IQ.
"[They] told Bobby that they knew that he did it. That they had evidence that he did it,” Rosenthal said, “that they had his fingerprints on the car. And, that everybody was saying he did it. None of which was true,” Rosenthal said.
Rosenthal also said that the prosecutor had evidence against another suspect. The bullet that killed Fields was linked to a gun found in another man's possession "who fit the description of one of the perpetrators and who had a history of committing crimes including a murder that had been committed with the same gun,” Rosenthal said.
Friday’s proceeding was bittersweet for the daughter of Herbert Fields who said she never thought there was enough evidence to convict Johnson.
“I’ve seen from the beginning that there wasn’t enough evidence against Bobby Johnson. So, I didn’t even have any closure when Bobby said he was guilty. I had no closure,” Susan Troxler said.
The investigation into Herbert Field’s death is ongoing and will now be investigated by a cold case unit of the Chief State’s Attorney’s office.
Johnson said he is unsure what his next step is.
“Hopefully we can get justice for everybody who is in this predicament. This is a blessing,” he said.