Messiah Johnson spent 20 years in prison for a robbery he didn’t commit; he hopes Northam will grant absolute pardon | State and Regional News

Andrew M. Santos






Messiah Johnson, who has waited four years in hopes of an absolute pardon for a robbery he didn’t commit, spoke with the Richmond Times-Dispatch by Zoom on Jan. 8, 2022.




In exoneration, Messiah Johnson looks for Gov. Northam to “make the right decision”







Messiah Johnson spent more than 20 years in prison for a beauty salon robbery he didn’t commit. He’s since started a trucking business and recently bought a home, and he wants to employ people returning from incarceration.

But he needs one last thing to get his life back. Gov. Terry McAuliffe in 2018, at the end of his term, granted Johnson a partial pardon (called a conditional pardon) based on credible evidence he was innocent. Johnson has waited four years, hoping Gov. Ralph Northam would grant an absolute pardon.

But the Northam administration recently notified Johnson’s lawyers at the University of Virginia Innocence Project that they wouldn’t be getting to it and it would pass to the next administration. Northam leaves office on Saturday when Gov.-elect Glenn Youngkin is sworn in, and Johnson hopes Northam will reconsider.

“I still have that stigma of 24 felonies. And in some people’s mind, maybe I’m not innocent,” Johnson said. “So that’s still a dark cloud over my head. I would like for myself, my family, my community, the people I’ve inspired and helped and of course my daughters to know that their father is absolutely 100 percent innocent.

“My family and I – we need him to make the right decision and grant me the pardon.”

Deirdre Enright, a law professor at the University of Virginia and founder of the UVA Innocence Project, helped investigate Johnson’s case and confirm the real robber. She said she was mystified about why the Northam administration couldn’t act on the request for an absolute pardon in four years when the facts McAuliffe had remain the same.

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