Terrell Johnson Found Not Guilty!

From: Human Rights Coalition:
Sept 13, 2012
Read also: http://justiceforterrell.blogspot.com/

Terrell Johnson found not guilty on all charges: Only minutes before the close of court on Wednesday, September 12, a jury returned a verdict of not guilty on all three charges in the 18-year-old case of Commonwealth v. Terrell Johnson, causing the defendant and his family and supporters to burst into tears of joy. Terrell had spent more than 17 years in prison after being convicted of the 1994 murder of Verna Robinson. The jury found him not guilty of first degree murder, retaliation against a witness, and criminal conspiracy.

The close of the case brings an end to the relentless efforts of the Allegheny County District Attorney’s office to frame Terrell for a crime that he did not commit, using evidence that had been incredible and insufficient since day one.

After the prosecution rested last week in the case of Commonwealth v. Terrell Johnson, the only fact definitively proven was that Verna Robinson was shot twice in the head and murdered in the early morning hours of July 22, 1994. Relying on the testimony of two witnesses with serious credibility problems, prosecutor Russell Broman attempted to portray Terrell as a member of an alleged gang known as the Hazelwood Mob who gunned down Verna to prevent her from testifying against him in a simple assault case.

Terrell’s conviction in 1995 hinged on the testimony of one witness, Evelyn McBryde. When she testified last week she told a story that differed in significant respects from earlier versions, as she now claims she saw Terrell shoot Verna, which she had never testified to before.

Perhaps most harmful to her credibility was the 18-page criminal record dating from the mid-1980s to 2009 that involved repeated instances of criminal activity, including bank fraud, endangerment of children, retail theft, and prostituting her own children. Terrell’s attorney brought to the jury’s attention Evelyn’s thirteen aliases from her FBI file, four different social security numbers used, and four dates of birth. McBryde has received favorable treatment from the Allegheny County District Attorney’s Office ever since she first came forward as an alleged witness in this case after being arrested committing retail theft with her young children in 1994. At the time, prosecuting attorney Kim Berkley Clark intervened and asked other jurisdictions to drop charges against Evelyn at the time that she was the prosecutor’s witness in Terrell’s first trial.

Several police officers were called to bolster the prosecution’s case. Lt. McQuigan testified that she took down a report of Verna Robinson’s that a man named “Ralph” had assaulted her at the end of April 1994. The prosecutor then blurted out “Ralph” followed by “Rel”, suggesting that the name Ralph was actually the latter half of Terrell’s name. Lt. McQuigan was unable to testify as to how Terrell became a suspect who was eventually charged in the simple assault, agreeing with defense counsel that Verna’s description of a six foot young black male with a mustache was “generic.” Lt. Herrmann then also testified that he was involved in bringing simple assault charges against Terrell, though he could not determine how he became a suspect.

The victim’s mother, Barbara Robinson was called to testify as well. In August 2010, after Terrell had twice refused a plea offer that would have allowed him to walk out of prison for time served, Barbara Robinson signed a new statement that contradicted her past statements to police, testimony at three trials, and conversations with journalist Bill Moushey. During a break in her testimony, Barbara Robinson was instructed by a woman attending the trial that she should testify that she was afraid to come forward in the past in order to explain why her story had changed. It is unclear if the woman who coached her was a part of the prosecution team, with the state Office of Victims’ Advocate, or had some other role. After this conversation Barbara re-took the stand and alleged, for the first time, that she had been afraid to come forward in the past.

Several of the defense’s witnesses refuted every aspect of Evelyn McBryde’s testimony. Dinah Brown told the jury that Evelyn was not in her apartment prior to the shooting as she had claimed. Carol Smith testified that the gate in her front yard was locked, which would have made it impossible for Evelyn to enter through it and hide behind the bushes, which is where she claimed she witnessed the shooting from. Finally, Skinny Robinson testified that Evelyn was at his home at the time of the shooting, trading sexual services for drugs in the basement of his home.

On Monday afternoon, Terrell Johnson took the stand for the first time in 18 years to answer the charge that he murdered Verna Robinson. During the shooting, Terrell had been at a friend’s house where he ended up staying the night. The following morning he found out that Verna had been killed and that the police wanted to question him since he had been implicated in a simple assault charge against her, which he claimed was a case of mistaken identity. Upon learning that police had been looking for him, Terrell turned himself in for questioning. Terrell testified that police reports he had seen indicated that the police had corroborated his alibi. He was not arrested until seven months later, after Evelyn McBryde had implicated him. He also turned himself in when he was charged, thinking that this was a mistake and would be cleared up quickly.

18 years later, a definitive chapter in this saga has closed. Terrell Johnson remains in state custody after the trial pending being “processed” out of the prison he was held at.

This victory represents a resounding testament to the power of faith and family, and it would not have been possible without the steadfast determination of Saundra Cole, Terrell’s wife, who tracked down the new evidence that led to the re-trial, inspired others to help organize press conferences, teach-ins, rallies, and community events, and together with Terrell raised and maintained a caring and supportive family throughout this trying but transformative struggle.

Help bring Terrell home! September 4th!

Help bring Terrell home!


18 years after being framed for a murder he didn’t commit and three years after being awarded a new trial, the case of Commonwealth v. Terrell Johnson is set to be re-tried in Pittsburgh tomorrow, September 4.

Supporters of Terrell are calling for courthouse support all week, September 4-7 from 9am to 5pm, and the following week September 8 until the trial ends.

The trial will be held in the Allegheny County Courthouse in Pittsburgh on 436 Grant Street in front of Judge Machen in court room 326.

Please attend as often and for as long as possible. Supporters are asked to dress appropriately and to conduct themselves in a serious and dignified manner throughout the proceedings.

Also, please be advised that any literature or clothing that acknowledges that Terrell has already been incarcerated for this crime are not to be brought in or near the courtroom since the jury is not permitted to be aware of this fact. Leaving a flyer in the courthouse or wearing a Justice for Terrell shirt that indicates he was wrongfully convicted may result in a mistrial.

For questions as to scheduling of the trial, including if it still occurring, or when it will end or recess on particular days, contact Bret at 412-654-9070.

One final thing that it is important to remember: Terrell could have come home in the fall of 2009 or the spring/summer of 2010 if he would have accepted the prosecution’s offer of a plea bargain on a third-degree homicide charge that would have carried a 7-15 year sentence. He would have been released for time served. He refused because he is innocent and he refused to cut an immoral deal with a government that has knowingly framed him and denied his humanity.

He deserves our support now.

In solidarity,

HRC/Fed Up!

Trial of Terrell Johnson postponed-Rally and Press Conference Cancelled

Received by email from the Human Rights Coalition, Feb 24th 2011:

HRC-FedUp! Alert
TRIAL POSTPONED-Rally and Press Conference CANCELLED
HRC received word late yesterday afternoon that the new trial of Terrell Johnson has been postponed. The rally and press conference have been canceled as well.

Mr. Johnson’s lawyer was in front of Judge Machen yesterday, and it was decided that there would be suppression hearings on Monday instead, which will feature testimony and arguments about whether or not certain evidence of the prosecution will be admissible. These hearings will continue through Tuesday and possibly Wednesday, after which the judge may set a deadline for submission of briefs and a new trial date.

Mr. Johnson’s lawyer estimated that the trial may be pushed back until April, though he is uncertain. HRC will send out immediate notice upon learning of the new trial date.

We apologize for any inconvenience experienced by supporters who planned on taking off school or work to attend the trial. If you have questions please contact HRC at hrcfedup@gmail.com or call 412-654-9070.

Thank you for understanding,


Justice for Terrell Community Teach-in

From the Human Rights Coalition, via Email:

February 22nd at 5:00
East Liberty Branch Library
130 S. Whitfield St.

Come hear the story of Terrell Johnson, a man who has been incarcerated for 16 years for a crime he did not commit. We will be Discussing How Wrongful Convictions Happen and What you can do to Help Terrell.

Terrell Johnson’s new trial–16 years later–will finally begin on Monday, February 28th.

Join HRC’s Justice for Terrell Campaign as we hold a rally and press conference outside the Allegheny County Courthouse that Monday at 8am.

More details later in the week…
Call 412-654-9070 to help us pack the courthouse steps and the courtroom!

Teach in about Terrell Johnson case, and more action news this week

Teach-in on the Terrell Johnson Case

Join the Pitt National Lawyers Guild and HRC/Fed Up! for a Wrongful Conviction Case Summary on October 21 at 12pm in room G20 of the Barco Law Building, 3900 Forbes Avenue.

Pittsburgh resident Terrell Johnson has spent 16 years in prison for a murder he did not commit and has won a new trial. His wife Saundra and others from the Human Rights Coalition’s Justice for Terrell campaign will present an overview of the
facts of the case, the new evidence that won him a retrial, why the DA offered Terrell a plea bargain that would have allowed him to come home last year, and why Terrell refuses to accept anything less than full acquittal.

Pizza will be provided!

Justice for Terrell Strategy and Organizing Session

Thursday, October 21 at 6pm, Crazy Mocha in Bloomfield. In recent weeks the DA has manufactured new false evidence and intimidated a witness for the defense. They are escalating their tactics and still attempting to pressure Terrell into accepting an unjust plea.

Come help us plan the next steps. There will be no pizza at this one, but they sell slices for  a $1.25 across the street.

Policymaker Leadership Institute

Please join us for the groundbreaking Policymaker Leadership Institute (PLI) hosted by New Voices Pittsburgh: Women of Color for Reproductive Justice and Urban Initiative for Reproductive Health. The PLI advances the FOCUS on Women Campaign to address Reproductive Justice and Human Rights issues in the Allegheny County Jail.

This event is free and open to the public; however, space is limited. Register today. Please distribute widely. We look forward to your participation.

Friday, October 22, 2010, 8AM-3PM, Hosanna House, Inc. 807 Wallace Avenue, Wilkinsburg, PA 15221

For more info or questions and to register, email paula.nvp@gmail.com or call 412.362.6547

8:00am: Registration / Continental Breakfast / Networking
9:00am: Welcome / Opening Session
9:15am: Policy Briefing: “Reproductive Justice for the Greater Pittsburgh Region”
9:45am: Keynote Speaker: Imani Walker
10:45am: Morning Plenary

12:00pm: Lunch
12:45pm: Afternoon Plenary
2:00pm: Closing
Please Circulate Widely
Teach-in and Speak-out to Mark the National Day of Protest Against Police Brutality Friday, October 22nd at 6:30 pm (press conference at 6:00)

Join the Alliance for Police Accountability for a teach-in to mark the national day of protest against police brutality. The event will begin with a speak-out, where community members will have an opportunity to share their personal stories of abuse at the hands of law enforcement. Then, several activists will give brief presentations about how we can organize and fight back. The evening will end with an open discussion. Together, we can stop police brutality!