Former Houston inmate sues county, state prison wardens & more for ‘brutal treatment’
Timothy Johnson and his legal team filed a lawsuit in federal court in Macon on Monday.
“This time is lost and I can’t get it back,” Johnson said.
The lawsuit says Johnson was housed in a cramped, windowless cell, and deprived of interaction with other people for more than nine years at the Georgia State Prison. While in solitary, guards referred to as the ‘goon squad’ would visit Johnson’s cell once or twice a week and beat Johnson.
“They would tell you something like we need to come in and look in your cell and check your cell. That would be the excuse for coming in and assaulting you and beating you,” said Johnson.
The beatings caused Johnson to break his right foot, both knees, a toe, a finger, along with other injuries. He also claims to suffer from anxiety, insomnia, heart palpitations, and depression.
Johnson was arrested in 1984 after being accused of murdering a convenience store clerk in Warner Robins. The lawsuit says officers arrested Johnson without probable cause.
There are also claims officers pressured Johnson to write a confession. In September 1984, he was placed in solitary confinement for the next three months in Warner Robins.
After being let out of solitary, officers took Johnson to a bridge and threatened to ‘drop him off the bridge’s edge’ if he didn’t sign the confession.
He signed the confession.
Johnson plead guilty to armed robbery and murder in December 1984 in exchange for the death penalty being removed.
With this plea agreement, Johnson’s mother, stepfather and girlfriend had all been arrested. After the agreement was made, the family’s charges were dropped.
In February 2006, the state supreme court overturned Johnson’s conviction and sentence. The next month, he was transferred to the Houston County Jail where he was re-arrested.
Johnson was re-indicted for the murder and armed robbery charges in June 2006. Within a month of the indictment, the District Attorney sought the death penalty.
The DA’s office didn’t try Johnson until December 2013, seven years after the state overturned his initial conviction and sentence.
A jury acquitted Johnson of all charges.
In June and December 2014, Johnson sent claims to Houston County, the city of Warner Robins, and the state of Georgia notifying the governments of claims for malicious prosecution, false arrest, false imprisonment, and civil rights violations.
He never heard back.
Johnson is demanding a jury trial for the damages and attorneys’ fees and costs he faced while in jail for nearly 30 years.
“I feel it’s important for people to know these stories of what happens, especially when you don’t even get to hear about them because folks don’t have the resources to bring the case,” Zahra Karinshak, Johnson’s attorney, said. “How do you get that back? I don’t know how you get that back. There is no 100% solution here.”
Since he’s been out of jail, he says he spends time with his family, sorry that he didn’t get to create one himself.
“…a lot of going to church, a lot of outings with the family. I stay real close to my parents,” Johnson said.
41NBC reached out to the sheriff’s office, they haven’t been served any papers, and didn’t have a comment.